White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Hundreds of white marchers with blazing torches clashed briefly with counter protesters on the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia on Friday, the eve of a rally planned by thousands of white nationalists, media said.

The events highlight a persistent debate in the U.S. South over the display of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the rebel side in the Civil War, fought over the issue of slavery.

The marchers chanted as made their way from Nameless Field through the sprawling campus to the school’s Thomas Jefferson statue, where they were met by counter protesters, an affiliate of NBC news said.

Both groups threw punches and pushed each other as police arrived to break up the clash. A chemical irritant was sprayed into the crowd, NBC29.com reported.

At least one person was arrested and several on campus were treated for minor injuries, the Daily Progress newspaper said.

The clash came the night before an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 people were to attend a Unite the Right rally to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park on Saturday. (Reuters)

See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Twitter and Tumblr.

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists take part the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists march with tiki torchs through the University of Virginia campus, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Zach D. Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists encircle counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Chanting “White lives matter! You will not replace us! and Jews will not replace us!,” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Chanting “White lives matter! You will not replace us! and Jews will not replace us!,” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Charlottesville

Campus police at the University of Virginia following a march of hundreds of white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Chanting “White lives matter! You will not replace us! and Jews will not replace us!,” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus last night.
Beginning a little after 9:30 p.m., the march lasted 15 to 20 minutes before ending in skirmishing when the marchers were met by a small group of counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the universitys founder. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Chanting “White lives matter! You will not replace us! and Jews will not replace us!,” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists take part the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists march with tiki torchs through the University of Virginia campus, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Zach D. Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via Reuters)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

A man is helped after being hit in the face with pepper spray during a clash between counter protestors and Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacist groups after they marched through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

A man cringes after being hit in the face with pepper spray during a clash between counter protestors and Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacist groups after they marched through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Young men hold up torches on the steps of the Rotunda as other Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists take part the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists march with tiki torchs through the University of Virginia campus, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Zach D. Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists take part the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists march with tiki torchs through the University of Virginia campus, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Zach D. Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes