Over the weekend, a Ku Klux Klan rally turned bloody when a number of people, including both counter-protesters and Klan members, were stabbed and "stomped on the ground." Charges include assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse.
Five KKK supporters who were taken into custody in relation to the violence were released on Sunday because, according to police, they were acting in self defense. The counter-protesters arrested by police were still being held, according to The Associated Press.
The AP reports that that the Anaheim Police said "Regardless of an individual or groups' beliefs or ideologies, they are entitled to live without the fear of physical violence and have the right, under the law, to defend themselves when attacked." Police Chief Raul Quezada said in a statement posted to the Anaheim PD website that “Even if the vast majority of our community disagrees with a particular group who visits our city we cannot stop them from lawfully gathering to express their opinions… violence is not acceptable, and we will arrest anybody who assaults another person or commits any other crime in our city.”
Witnesses described a frightening scene. The Los Angeles Times recounts:
Fighting broke out moments after Klan members exited the vehicle. Some of the protesters could be seen kicking a man whose shirt read “Grand Dragon.” At some point, a protester collapsed on the ground bleeding, crying that he had been stabbed. A Klansman in handcuffs could be heard telling a police officer that he 'stabbed him in self-defense.' Several other people were also handcuffed. Witnesses said the Klansmen used the point of a flagpoles as a weapon while fighting with protesters.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, took video of the volatile situation:
Levin posted more to Twitter, explaining that he intervened to help a member of the KKK:
The Anaheim PD posted a statement on the incident—which mentioned that only four people were released, and did not identify them as Klan supporters—to its Facebook page, where a range of comments were left. Some criticized the APD, and some defended the Klan's right to protest.
Anaheim is a pretty diverse city — as of 2010, the population was nearly 53% Latino and just 28% white, according to Census data.
In a statement, Mayor Tom Tait said, "We will always honor free speech in Anaheim, but we vehemently reject hate and violent confrontation."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.