January 21, 2008 / 11:15 PM / 10 years ago

White supremacists march in Louisiana on King holiday

3 Min Read

<p>Members of a white supremacist group march under a Ku Klux Klan flag in Jena, Louisiana January 21, 2008.Jessica Rinaldi</p>

JENA, Louisiana (Reuters) - About 25 white supremacists marched through this central Louisiana town on Monday in a white power rally on the U.S. national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

They called for the holiday to be abolished and demanded harsh justice for the "Jena 6" -- six black teenagers who beat a white schoolmate in a racially-charged incident in 2006.

"I'm just here to help get some justice for that boy for getting his butt kicked by six coons," another marcher, David Dupre of Tioga, Louisiana, told Reuters.

The march, organized by the Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement, a self-described "pro-majority" group, drew an opposition protest about 10 times larger and much more vocal in a sometimes tense confrontation.

"I'm a firm believer that you have to confront evil and I think these people are here to promote evil," John Hill, a black former U.S. Marine from Monroe, Louisiana said of the marchers.

At least 150 policemen kept the opposing camps separated.

The Nationalists were led by founder Richard Barrett as they walked through town. They did not wear robes like their white power brethren in the Ku Klux Klan, but some wore Klan patches.

<p>David Dupre Jr. (R) takes a shotgun out of his truck while explaining to reporters that he plans to protect himself if necessary in Jena, Louisiana January 21, 2008.Jessica Rinaldi</p>

Jena, a town of about 3,000, has become a flashpoint for U.S. racial issues since the black teenagers were charged with attempted murder for beating up their white schoolmate when a noose was hung at Jena High School.

About 20,000 supporters marched through Jena in September protesting what they saw as overly-harsh treatment of the teenagers. The charges against the defendants now have been reduced to battery.

Slideshow (8 Images)

Only a few townspeople came out to watch the march.

"I think its very disrespectful, I think it's unnecessary," said 18-year-old black Jena resident Latara Hart as one of the marchers walked by with a noose hanging from his belt.

Barrett spoke for more than an hour in a speech that finished with just five people listening.

"Today I'm saying that King has no credibility," he said. "We want to abolish the Martin Luther King holiday."

He called for referendums to roll back the civil rights legislation of the 1960s that legally ended racial segregation in the U.S. South.

Writing by Jeff Franks; editing by Chris Wilson; jeff.franks@reuters.com; Reuters Messaging: jeff.franks.reuters.com@reuters.net; +1 713 210 8513

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