The Alabama NAACP president and 13 other black leaders bent on ripping down the Confederate flag atop the state Capitol were arrested Tuesday as they tried to scale a fence around the building.
State troopers and Capitol police officers met state Rep. Thomas Reed, the state president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, and other black legislators at a padlocked gate leading to the building, which is closed for renovation.
Flag Seen as Racist
The black leaders contend that the Confederate flag, which is flying from a cupola on the Capitol dome, is a racist symbol of slavery and black oppression.
State police were acting on orders from Gov. Guy Hunt, who said he wants legislators to decide the flag issue and promised that no one would be allowed to rip down a Capitol flag.
"This is just the beginning of my effort to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Alabama Capitol," Reed said as he left the county jail after his arrest.
The NAACP is also campaigning to bring down a Confederate flag over the South Carolina Statehouse, as well as to remove rebel flags from the designs of the Georgia and Mississippi state flags.
Across the street from the Alabama Capitol, some people in a mostly white crowd of several hundred sang "Dixie" and carried signs reading "Heritage, Honor, Pride, Not Racist."
A smaller crowd of blacks sang "We Shall Overcome," the hymn of the civil rights movement.
Pulled Down by Police
Reed, flanked by a throng of supporters and reporters, grabbed a high spot on the fence around the Capitol but was pulled down by officers. After several minutes of discussion, Reed again tried to climb the fence, and the others followed one by one, some simply placing their hands on the fence.
Officers led them all to a police bus, which was surrounded by officers in riot gear. The 14 arrested were charged with second-degree criminal trespass, and each was released soon after on $300 bond, Sheriff's Lt. E. Norred said. Trial was set for March 11, with the maximum penalty on conviction being a $500 fine and three months in jail.