Three people were stabbed Saturday, one critically, after a small group of Ku Klux Klan members staging an anti-immigrant rally in Southern California clashed with a larger gathering of counter-protesters, police said.
The violence erupted shortly after noon in Anaheim's Pearson Park, about 3 miles from Disneyland. The KKK had advertised plans for the rally, and about 30 anti-Klan protesters showed up beforehand, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt to the Associated Press. When the Klan members arrived, they were attacked as they exited their cars, he said.
Two Klan members were stomped by the counter-protesters, and three of the counter-protesters were stabbed. One Klansman stabbed a counter-protester with the decorative end of a flag pole, Wyatt said. That stabbing set off a vicious brawl in which Klan members and protesters fought across an entire city block.
The Klansmen are chapter members of the Loyal White Knights, which stretches from Texas to the west coast, said Brian Levin, a professor at Cal-State University, San Bernardino who studies hate crime and extremism. Levin told KPCC that attended the rally Saturday in hopes of interviewing the group.
Levin said he saw a crowd growing near a parked black SUV, which had Klansmen inside. He said he could see a KKK member with a flag, and protesters attacking the SUV as it drove away leaving behind three KKK members.
As the three men began walking down the street, the counter-protestors turned their violent attention toward them, Levin said. The KKK members were kicked and punched to the ground. That’s when Levin said he had to step in – put his body in harm's way – to defend the leader of the Loyal White Knights of the West.
“I told him, ‘I loathe everything you stand for, sir, but I did not want you to be hurt,'” Levin said.
The following video was provided to KPCC by Levin:
Madelaine Valdes-Vasquez, 39, had a similar feeling.
She took her 16-year old son to the rally to teach him that everyone has a right to an opinion, she said. But when the mob began kicking one of the KKK members to the ground, Valdes-Vasquez was appalled.
“We didn’t see a racist person on the floor," she said to KPCC. “We saw a human being on the floor.”
Valdes-Vasquez said her son wanted to jump in and help the Klansman but she held him back for safety.
“It’s weird,” she said. “It’s weird that I’m trying to defend someone, but in all honesty, they didn’t do anything. They just showed up.”
According to the Anaheim Police Department, 12 people were arrested: Five members of the Klan group connected to the stabbings, and seven of the counter-protesters suspected of attacking Klan members. After viewing evidence, four of the people arrested were released, according to Anaheim police.
In a statement, the Anaheim Police Department stood by their handling of the incident:
"The Anaheim Police Department was aware of both the planned KKK protest as well as the counter protest. As such, a contingent of personnel were dedicated to the event. Those officers were on scene immediately as the violence erupted and called for additional personnel. Our response was such that we were able to arrest all of the main participants in the incident, with the exception of one."
All of the injured were male. None were immediately identified. The three stabbing victims were transported to a local hospital, and all were listed in stable condition by Saturday evening. One victim who was stomped was also hospitalized and listed in stable condition; the other suffered minor injuries and refused treatment, according to the Associated Press.
The KKK has a long history in Anaheim. In the 1920s some Klansmen held elected office in the city, which was overwhelmingly white but now has a majority of Hispanics among its roughly 350,000 residents, according to the AP.
In January 2015, packets containing fliers condemning Martin Luther King Jr. and supporting the Ku Klux Klan were left in the driveways of about 40 homes in Santa Ana, about 8 miles south of Anaheim. The fliers opened with the heading "On Martin Luther King Day, you are celebrating a communist pervert." The bottom of the fliers stated they came from the "Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan."
Nationwide, the number of active KKK groups increased to 190 in 2015 after falling in 2013 and 2014, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
Chris Barker, who identified himself as the "imperial wizard" of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, told the AP his members were holding a peaceful anti-immigration demonstration and acted in self-defense.
"If we're attacked we will attack back," said Barker, who did not attend the rally and spoke by phone from North Carolina. The organization lists Pelham, N.C., as its headquarters.
Anaheim police put out the following list of arrestees:
- Charles Edward Donner, 51, resident of San Francisco, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, $25,000 bail
- Nicole Rae Schop, 24, resident of Los Angeles, Elder Abuse, $50,000 bail
- Marquis DeShawn Turner, 20, resident of Anaheim, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, $25,000 bail
- Randy Omarcc Felder, 25, resident of Lakewood, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, $25,000 bail
- Mark Anthony Liddell, 26, resident of Los Angeles, Elder Abuse, $50,000 bail
- Guy Harris, 19, Transient, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, $25,000 bail
- Hugo Contreras, 38, resident of Hawthorne, Elder Abuse, $50,000 bail
Police also noted that one suspect was at large and is wanted for suspicion of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.
The police linked to footage of the entire incident that has been posted to YouTube (Warning: the video contains graphic images).
This story has been updated.