A crowd of about 2,000 turned out here -- the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan -- to watch the Klan demonstrate today against the first national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
Fewer than 100 men and women in long white robes and camouflage-print combat fatigues marched around town square, calling for "white power" and "white revolution." One marcher carried a sign that said "Smash Commies" and another paraded with an upside-down American flag.
The Klan began here in 1865, organized by community leaders who were afraid the local government would be turned over to former slaves and northerners in the wake of the Civil War. Today the marchers stopped briefly at Bank's Barber Shop, the place where the Klan held its first meeting, to mark what Richard Butler of the Aryan Nation called "hallowed ground."
Toward the end of the 15-minute march, about 50 local black youths with raised fists confronted the white protesters, chanting, "King . . . King . . . King!" Some of the demonstrators responded with outstretched hands, palms downward.
Residents of Pulaski, which has a population of 7,500, said the marchers were from all over the country. The lone uniformed police officer on duty reported no incidents between townspeople and marchers.
The Klan's grand wizard, Stanley McCullom, a former aluminum worker from Tuscumbia, Ala., said he was marching because "we don't go along with honoring a black man. And we especially don't go along with honoring a black man who was a communist."
At a morning rally in Sam Davis Park, named for a Confederate war hero, the Klan's national chaplain, Thom Robb of Harrison, Ark., told an audience of fewer than 100 that "it is time for us to fight."
But when asked later what Robb meant, McCullom said, "There are lots of different ways of fighting. There are rallies like this. I've been fighting this city for two months to make them honor my constitutional rights."
The controversy over the march began last month when the Klan requested a parade permit.The town, as one resident put it, feels as if it has been "victimized by history." Bob Meier, editor of Newsline, a local weekly newspaper, said, "The law that gave King the right to march 20 years ago has trapped us into playing host to these people now."
Pulaski denied the Klan's request for a cross-burning on public property here, so it is to be held tonight on a nearby farm. "You can have a bonfire at the city park for your football team," Robb said today, "but the police told me that if we so much as strike a match here , we're all going to be arrested."
Pulaski, about 60 miles south of Nashville, has a welcoming sign that says it is home to the 1980 Class AA Championship Womens Basketball Team and three clubs -- Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis. There are no signs for the Klan.
The King holiday will be marked again Monday evening at special services at Beulah Baptist Church.