MONTGOMERY, ALA., FEB. 2 -- Alabama's NAACP president, state Rep. Thomas Reed, and 13 other black leaders were arrested today when they tried to climb an eight-foot-high fence around the state capitol to take down the Confederate battle flag flying over the dome.

Reed led several dozen blacks to a driveway gate where he talked to state troopers for almost 20 minutes before trying to climb the fence.

Officers grabbed Reed by the collar and pulled him from the fence, then restrained the others, among them NAACP national board member Emmett Burns, as they followed.

Earlier, as crowds gathered for the march sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, local and state law enforcement officers set up barricades and confiscated an ax handle from three youths.

The NAACP also is campaigning to bring down Confederate battle flags at statehouses in Alabama and South Carolina and to remove them from the designs of the Georgia and Mississippi state flags.

Capitol security police were under orders from Gov. Guy Hunt (R) not to allow anyone to reach the Capitol, which is being renovated and is surrounded by a locked, chain-link fence.

Bobby Shaner said he drove 100 miles to see Reed's attempt to remove the flag. "I feel strong about it, but it's not racism," said Shaner, 50, a pulpwood hauler. He said the Confederate flag over the Capitol is "all that we have left. It's all been taken away. Next, he {Reed} is going to want the name of the South changed."