Duke campaigns in Miami in GOP presidential race Few attend rally marked by protests

December 28, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

MIAMI -- In an appearance marked by demonstrations, two fistfights and heckling, David Duke opened his Florida presidential primary campaign yesterday in Miami with appeals to Christian values, promises to topple Cuba's Fidel Castro and a call for an end to Haitian immigration.

Mr. Duke, the telegenic ex-Nazi sympathizer and former Ku Klux Klan leader, divided his day between an appearance on Spanish-language radio and a poorly attended rally at Miami's Radisson Mart Plaza Hotel.

The Louisiana Republican decried welfare, criticized the Bush administration's call for a free-trade agreement with Mexico, called for an end to most immigration -- and a complete halt to Haitian immigration -- and the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from overseas.

And he frequently called for a return to "Christian values."

"I'm not saying people cannot practice other religions," Mr. Duke told a about 300 people in a mostly empty convention hall. "Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

"But freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from Christianity," he said to loud applause.

Most of the excitement came not from Mr. Duke's remarks, but from tension in the crowd, many of whom were backers of the arch-conservative Cuban National Alliance.

As Mr. Duke entered the room surrounded by a tight-faced group of security guards, a fistfight erupted when two people in the audience began chanting, "Six million, never again!" in reference to the slaughter of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Midway through his speech, a woman who identified herself as Sharon Bailey, 40, rose and cried: "You saluted Adolph Hitler." She was rushed out by armed guards.

As Mr. Duke left the hall, a skirmish broke out among his supporters, apparently over who had gotten campaign checks.

When asked to in a radio interview to outline his immigration policy, Mr. Duke began by saying that "we first must stop the massive, illegal immigration coming into America." Legal immigration, he added, should be limited to family members.

"We will not solve the problems of the world by bringing those problems here," he said.

"I think allowing the Haitian immigration, for instance, will very much damage Florida and the nation because I think it's adding to our crime rates," he said. "Many of the people coming today don't want to work and contribute as the Cuban immigrants contributed and worked from the day they came.

"Immigrants in the past came to America with the idea of freedom and work. Many come today with the idea of freedom and a free ride, meaning receiving the welfare of those who do work hard," he said.

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