Two dozen Ku Klux Klan members held a rally Saturday in Stephenville to show support for college students who had thrown a party that was...

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STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Two dozen Ku Klux Klan members held a rally Saturday in Stephenville to show support for college students who had thrown a party that was criticized as racist.

Three people were arrested after a scuffle broke out with counterprotesters near the end of the 90-minute rally, but no other violence was reported. The event drew about 500 bystanders who booed and held anti-hate signs.

The group chose the small dairy town for the rally in response to a controversy two months ago at a local college.

Tarleton State University students held an off-campus party on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and ate fried chicken, drank malt liquor from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags and dressed as black stereotypes.

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The school later chastised them and held a unity rally and a student forum to discuss race relations. At least one student shown in photos posted on the Internet later apologized.

During the rally, one Klan member said Tarleton State was a good school but had a “spineless administration,” based on how it handled that situation.

“We felt like those kids were railroaded … and we felt like that was handled totally wrong by the college and by the people of Stephenville also,” Roger Davidson, the Klan’s grand dragon of Texas, said after the rally. “We stand behind anybody’s freedom of speech.”

The Traditional Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who wore black T-shirts or suits and not the white robes and hoods traditionally associated with the group, were separated from onlookers by two fences and dozens of law-enforcement officers. Klan members also voiced opposition to illegal immigration during the rally.

Faye Landham, of Arlington, said she went to Stephenville, about 100 miles southwest of Dallas, to counter some of the Klan’s messages.

“I think they’re evil people,” Landham said. “They go around saying they’re Christians and flying the Christian flag. I certainly don’t think Jesus would approve.”

After about two dozen people attended a peace rally at a park, many went downtown to counter the Klan’s rally.

“When I found out about the Klan event, I thought, ‘Are we in the right century?’ Everyone has freedom of speech, but Stephenville has been portrayed in a pretty negative light, and I wanted to take a stand to say that’s not who we are,” said peace rally co-organizer Jennifer Gelski.