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Klan, Opponents Face Off at Texas Capitol

January 17, 1993 GMT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ About 50 Ku Klux Klan members rallied Saturday to protest the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and were met by about 5,000 opponents who threw eggs, beat drums and shouted them down.

Six anti-Klan protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, police said.

″This was a cakewalk compared with 10 years ago,″ said Mike Cox of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In 1983, a Klan march here sparked bitter protests and violent outbursts that resulted in a dozen injuries.

In Montgomery, Ala., about 50 people also attended a Capitol rally on Saturday where Klan leaders demanded that the Confederate battle flag be returned to the Capitol dome’s flagpole. And in Miami, the KKK won a court order allowing it to hold a rally Monday in Davie, Fla., calling for the abolition of the King holiday and warning about an influx of Haitian refugees.

In Austin, about 150 police in riot gear and dozens of Texas Rangers and Travis County Sheriff’s deputies were posted around the Capitol, where Klan members rallied on the building’s steps.

Earlier, about 1,000 people marched to protest the Klan. But that crowd grew to about 5,000 hours later as about 50 Klan members arrived under heavy police protection.

Michael Lowe of Waco, leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas, and Thomas Robb, the Knights’ KKK national leader, spoke for about an hour, protesting the holiday that honors the slain civil rights leader.

″You will never have America because we will not let you,″ Robb said to the crowd that shouted at him and tossed eggs.

During the protest, about 75 people organized by Austin singer Steve Fromholz ″mooned″ Klan members. Some dropped their pants to show bare behinds, while others unveiled boxer shorts with anti-Klan messages.

″We just wanted to show the Klan what a ridiculous organization they are,″ said Jay Gagen, 33, one of those who dropped his pants.

After leaving the Capitol steps, the Klan members - behind a wall of helmeted troopers - boarded state and county prison buses and left with a police escort.

During the morning anti-Klan rally, demonstrators listened to a recording of King’s ″I Have a Dream″ speech, and civil rights activists urged the crowd to avoid a confrontation.

In Alabama, William Burchfield, grand titan of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said a judge who blocked display of the Confederate battle flag over the historic building and four black legislators whose lawsuit led to his ruling ″put themselves in front of the people.″

A former Klan grand wizard, Stanley McCollum of Tuscumbia, said the ″battle over the flag is a battle for power and control,″ adding, ″The blacks are constantly trying to get more.″

In Miami, federal Judge Shelby Highsmith ruled Saturday that the city of Davie’s order that the Klan buy a $1 million insurance policy before it hold its rally violated the group’s free speech rights.

A flier for Monday’s rally features the drawing of two hooded Klansmen on horseback and ends with the slogan, ″We are the Klan ... bringing back the dream.″