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Ole Miss players take knee during anthem as pro-Confederate rally unfolds on campus

"We're just tired of these hate groups coming to our school," player Breein Tyree said.

Eight University of Mississippi basketball players kneeled during the national anthem ahead of Saturday's home game in response to a pro-Confederate rally nearby.

"We're just tired of these hate groups coming to our school," player Breein Tyree told reporters after the game.

Two groups marched to a Confederate monument on the Oxford, Mississippi, campus — only a few hundred feet from the game — to encourage the preservation of the symbol that has stood for more than 100 years.

Mississippi basketball players take a knee during the national anthem before a game against Georgia on Saturday.Nathanael Gabler / The Oxford Eagle via AP

"For over a decade, the administration and faculty have completely disregarded and disrespected the traditions of a once great southern university," rally organizers said on Facebook.

The demonstration was scheduled to last four hours Saturday afternoon. On Friday, protesters demanded the removal of all Confederate monuments from the Ole Miss Circle on campus.

The Oxford community has been on alert after violence at a similar rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis called Saturday's demonstrators outside agitators.

"This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry," he said at a post-game press conference. "It’s created a lot of tension for our campus."

The kneeling players, he said, "made an emotional decision to show these people they’re not welcome on our campus. And we respect our players' freedom and ability to chose that."

The Ole Miss Rebels beat Georgia, 72-71.

University Police Chief Ray Hawkins said one person was arrested at Saturday's protest.

"We had to make an arrest from someone who failed to comply with the directions that were given, but that was the only reported incident," he said.

Hawkins praised his officers for handling three protests in as many days. "I think our team has done an outstanding job of making sure our campus was safe," Hawkins said.

Robyn Tannehill, mayor of Oxford, lauded the city's police department and residents. "Our community demonstrated that allowing freedom of expression is not an endorsement of divisive speech," she tweeted.

Similar demonstrations from groups on both sides of the Confederate monument issue erupted Saturday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Protesters met at the former site of a Confederate statue. No arrests were reported.

Associated Press contributed.