Thousands in California rally for accused Hmong general

Thousands of Northern California Hmong gathered at the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento Monday in support of Gen. Vang Pao and 10 other people charged with plotting to overthrow the communist government of Laos.

Vang, leader of Hmong expatriates, was scheduled to appear in court today where his trial is scheduled to resume.

He and nine other Hmong men, along with Harrison Jack, a retired Army officer from Woodland, are charged with conspiring to purchase scores of weapons to arm insurgents and to hire mercenaries, all designed to oust the Laotian regime.

Thousands of Vang's supporters gathered at the Capitol for the march of several blocks to the federal courthouse where Vang, free on bail, is scheduled to appear.

The protesters held signs indicating they were from Alaska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas. They also held signs with the general's picture and hundreds of American flags.

Just before 10:30 a.m., the throng of Hmong protesters unleashed the loudest chant of the day -- "Free Vang Pao!" -- as the general made his way into the courthouse surrounded by security guards in yellow T-shirts.

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