WILMINGTON, Vt. -- Four Ku Klux Klansmen who had planned to stage Vermont's first hooded Klan rally since the 1920s were arrested today on weapons charges. Riot police were called out to quell possible clashes between the white supremacists and counter-demonstrators.
Gov. Richard Snelling urged people to stay away from a planned Ku Klux Klan gathering today, but two anti-Klan groups said as many as 1,000 people might stage a counter-demonstration in the quiet town.
Other anti-Klan groups, however, said they would adhere to the governor's request and planned their opposition demonstrations in several other cities.
The four Connecticut-based Klansmen, including Imperial Wizard James Farrands, were arrested in Wilmington at 5 a.m. on charges of possessing loaded long-armed weapons -- a fishing and games violations. The four are being held in the Brattleboro lockup for lack of 500 dollars bail.
Riot-trained police were called to the quiet rural southwestern Vermont town of 1,800 people.
Some 250 people -- some carrying 'Death to the Klan' signs - gathered peacefully Friday night on the common in Brattleboro to protest the scheduled gathering at Wilmington.
About a dozen members of the KKK, based in Connecticut, plan to don their white robes and hand out literature on a high-school football field in Wilmington in the first appearance of hooded Klansmen in Vermont since the 1920s, to test the reception there.
Klansmen reportedly agreed not to carry weapons after discussions with Wilmington Police Chief Agostinho Fernandes.
Spokesmen for a Communist group from New Hampshire and the national International Committee Against Racism said their organizations planned to go to Wilmington and predicted as many as 1,000 anti-Klan activists would show up.
In his plea for calm, Snelling noted police reports that several anti-Klan organizations -- some based out of state -- have been advocating disrupting the the Klan's activities.
'I deplore and abhor everything the Klan stands for,' he said, 'but I am equally determined Vermont will not be the scene of violence either because of the actions of the Klan or any group responding to them.'
Fernandes has asked local residents to stay away from the Klansmen.
One Wilmington bar is hosting a picnic on the outskirts of the southern Vermont town to give local residents something else to do.
And some townspeople have whipped up a banner to be strung across Route 9 in the center of town: 'Hate does not grow well in the rocky soil of Vermont.'
Peaceful counter-demonstrations were planned in Burlington, Bennington and Brattleboro and representatives of out-of-state anti-Klan groups held a meeting this week in Keene, N.H.