CINCINNATI, DEC. 22 -- About 1,500 people jeered and threw objects at six robed Ku Klux Klan members who staged a rally today, resulting in one injury and seven arrests.
Hecklers at Fountain Square shouted obscenities, waved "Smash the Klan" signs and hurled bottles that shattered on the square's stage as helmeted police formed a barrier to hold back the crowd.
"It's a damn shame the city's protecting them," one protester said.
Police Chief Lawrence Whalen said at least one fistfight broke out among people in the angry crowd that had gathered in the plaza.
One fire captain was slightly injured by an object hurled from the crowd, Whalen said. No other injuries were reported.
"I think you've seen an exhibition here of one of the most difficult jobs that public safety has, of maintaining strict neutrality between two or three or four factions that have some very significant points of view," he said.
The Klansmen, wearing white, purple and black robes, erected a 10-foot cross in the square. One Klan member held up a Bible and yelled "Life, life through Jesus." But when he grabbed a bullhorn to make a speech, jeers and taunts drowned out his words.
One heckler in the crowd screamed: "Your mama should see you. She ain't never bought you no clothes like that."
The jeering intensified when one Klan member held up a sign reading: "Fight Racism -- Abolish Affirmative Action."
Those who were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct. Other protesters, angry over the arrests, went to the Hamilton County Justice Center and chanted while the seven were booked.
Police said they recovered 40 to 50 objects the protesters threw during the rally, including rocks, ball bearings, pieces of machinery and a two-pound can of sliced pineapples.
The Klansmen, members of the U.S. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan based in nearby Hamilton, had obtained a city permit to hold a one-hour rally, but left 15 minutes early. The Klan sought the rally permit after U.S. District Judge Carl Rubin allowed a Jewish congregation to put a menorah on the square for the eight days of Hanukah.
They observed a resolution the City Council had passed Wednesday barring them from wearing hoods to conceal their identities on public property, and they abided by a city prohibition against burning their cross on the square.