Alabama's 141-year-old state Capitol was rededicated Saturday after a lengthy restoration, but black legislators boycotted the ceremony to protest the governor's refusal to stop flying the Confederate flag over the building.
The legislators were protesting Republican Gov. Guy Hunt's decision to disregard objections by both whites and blacks and continue flying the Confederate battle flag, a symbol of segregation for many people.
The flag did not actually fly Saturday because the flagpole normally used to hoist the American, Alabama and Confederate banners has not been reinstalled.
Police confiscated a few Confederate flags during the opening ceremony as a "matter of security," a spokesman for Hunt said.
Cecil Humphries, chief of the Capitol police, said there were no arrests or violence. Six people believed to be members of a white supremacist group wore gray jackets and Confederate clothing, Humphries said.
Several former state officials have called on Hunt to remove the flag from the Capitol, where it has flown since 1963, when former Gov. George C. Wallace had it hoisted as a show of defiance against civil rights.
Wallace ordered the flag raised over the Capitol the day before then-Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy came to Montgomery to discuss desegregation of the state's schools.
The Business Council of Alabama told Hunt in a letter "that the issue of the Confederate battle flag flying over the Capitol dome is one that is detrimental to the image of our state and has divided segments of our citizenry."
But Hunt, the first Republican governor of Alabama since Reconstruction, has said he will not remove the flag, citing opinion polls that show most Alabama residents support flying it at the Capitol.
Hunt made no mention of the flag issue in a speech at the rededication of the Capitol, where the slave-holding Confederacy was officially formed in 1861. Representatives of six Southern states met at the building, declared the new nation and elected Jefferson Davis as its president.