About 50 white separatists protested the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday in this tiny town, that was thrust into the spotlight months ago by 20,000 demonstrators who claimed prosecutors discriminated against blacks.
Police separated participants in the "pro-majority" rally organized by the Learned, Miss.-based Nationalist Movement from a racially mixed group of about 100 counter-demonstrators outside the LaSalle Parish Courthouse.
At least person was arrested after about six counter-protesters gathered in a semicircle around a podium where the separatist group's leader Richard Barrett was to speak.
Dozens of state police forced the counter-demonstrators back before Barrett spoke Monday afternoon. One man who broke away from the crowd was arrested and booked with battery on a police officer; authorities identified him as William Winchester Jr. of New Orleans and said he was a member of the New Black Panthers.
Race relations in spotlight
Earlier, chants of "No KKK" from the mostly college-aged counter-demonstrators with met with a chant from the separatists that contained a racial epithet.
Race relations in Jena (population about 2,800) have been in the news ever since six black teenagers were arrested in the beating of a white classmate in December 2006.
About 20,000 people peacefully marched in support of the so-called Jena Six in September, and Monday's demonstration was organized in opposition to both the teenagers and the King holiday.
Five of the blacks were originally charged with attempted murder, leading to accusations that they were being prosecuted harshly because of their race. Charges have since been reduced.
Critics of the prosecutor have noted that months before the beating, no charges were filed against three other white students accused of hanging nooses _ seen as signs of racial intimidation _ in a tree at Jena High School. The prosecutor has that the noose hangings, while "abhorrent," violated no state law.
Many Jena residents said coverage of the controversy last year unfairly portrayed them as racists, and Barrett's group brought renewed unwanted attention. Only when faced with a lawsuit did the town drop a requirement that the Nationalists post a $10,000 security bond for a permit.
Hoping for return to normalcy
Jena resident Dayna Brown, a black woman who made a scrapbook on the September protest, had her camera in hand Monday. She said she was ready to see Jena's time in the spotlight end.
"I'm hoping this is the last of it," Brown said. "Jena's not a bad place to live if you're black or white. We'd just all like to see things settle down."
The Rev. Raymond Brown of New Orleans has said he would lead an effort to shout down Nationalist speakers but other civil rights leaders, while denouncing the Nationalist Movement, seemed content to let protesters march and leave. The Rev. Al Sharpton, an organizer of the September march, preached at a Jena church on Sunday but said he had prior commitments that would keep him away from Jena on Monday.
Some of the Nationalist supporters were armed despite a call from Barrett to leave guns behind.
Acting LaSalle Parish Sheriff Scott Franklin told a father and son from Tioga, about 30 miles from Jena, to put away two shotguns. Franklin allowed them to continue to wear holstered sidearms, but Jena police Chief Paul Smith told David Dupre Jr. and his father that they would have to put away all weapons during the march, under Louisiana law.
"I'm here to protest black-on-white crime," David Dupre Sr., 53, told reporters.
His 31-year-old son, at times using racial slurs, said: "It's time for us white folks to start getting some of our rights back."
One of the Jena Six, Mychal Bell, 17, pleaded guilty in December in juvenile court to second-degree battery. A judge sentenced him to 18 months with credit for the 10 months he'd already served in jail. Trials are pending for the others charged.