Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Record-Journal newspaper 15 years ago. The event took place on April 21, 2001.
WALLINGFORD — He came. He spoke. He left.
With a lot of police, few arrests and little incident, hate group leader Matthew Hale gave his white supremacist speech Saturday under the pavilion at Community Lake. Hale, head of the Illinois-based World Church of the Creator, first spoke at the Wallingford Public Library in March. There, protesters met his presence with their own hate and aggression that led to tensions during the speech and Hale’s departure from the library, and a scuffle between the two groups.
For Saturday’s speech, police preparations that were made days ahead of time — including dug-in telephone pole barricades and blocks of concrete the size of cars — kept Hale supporters and protesters apart. With boundaries inside the park pre-drawn by police, the two groups exchanged glares, shouts and hand gestures, but little else. Police allowed Hale supporters and media past the blockades to the pavilion at the back of the park. Protesters were left to stage their opposition from 100 feet back, behind orange snow fencing and lines of armored officers. Inside the white supremacist encampment, T-shirts and patches on jackets showed what factions came to support Hale and protect him: World Church of the Creator. Hammer Skin. KKK.
The appearance of the white supremacist leader caused the cancellation of Little League events and a Quinnipiac River cleanup effort at the park.
“We need to exercise our rights; if that means something has to be closed at the park, so be it,” Hale said. “We didn’t ask them to move. We’re not holding a meeting here every day of the week. I obviously want a peaceful situation. Our method is persuasion, but obviously we would defend ourselves if we had to.”
Hale spoke for 90 minutes from under the pavilion roof, flanked by four guards wearing black uniforms and white berets. Protesters shouted through bullhorns and the incessant tweet of whistles, along with a hovering police helicopter, drowned out Hale’s words.
After the rally, police escorted the supremacists through the parking lot toward the nearby Wilbur Cross Parkway. A line of state troopers kept milling protesters at a distance. Traffic became backed up on Hall Avenue while supremacists and protesters left. A knife pulled by a Hale supporter led to his arrest, then that of three protesters, outside the park. Out of sight three blocks away, residents expressed annoyance at Saturday’s spectacle.
“The town has a bad rap — it’s ridiculous, it’s just too much,” said Terry Nichols, a Hall Avenue resident.