The Anaheim Police Department has defended its approach to a Ku Klux Klan rally that turned violent last weekend. The department faces criticism for not having a stronger presence at the rally and the counter-protest.
Witnesses said the rally had only a small police presence when fighting broke out between two parties. Protesters reported seeing no uniformed officers at the time the fight broke out. The Anaheim police insists that there were some plainclothes officers on site when the fight broke out. The department said those officers called for backup when things turned ugly.
Police Chief Raul Quezada reminded the media that the police were on the scene in enough time to arrest almost all of the main participants in the fight. One protester remains at large.
The police had previously notified area residents about a planned protest at Pearson Park. The department also said that it had monitored the situation before the event. However, it noted the KKK’s first amendment right to assemble in a public place.
Several protesters arrived on the site of a planned KKK rally on Saturday morning. Then, a black SUV pulled up, carrying six Klansmen. The men exited the vehicle dressed in black shirts covered in Klan insignia and carrying “White Lives Matter” signs. Witnesses described how the protesters surrounded the Klansmen almost immediately.
Brian Levin, of the Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, was on site, reportedly hoping to interview the leader of the group. When the violence broke out, he saw several protesters attack the Klansmen with weapons, including 2-by-4s.
Another witness captured a video of the fight. The video showed several protesters kicking one of the Klansmen. The video also depicted a Klansman stabbing a man with the tip of an American flag pole.
Officers responding to the scene witnessed another Klansman stab a protester with a knife.
After the melee began, witnesses reported several Klansmen fleeing the scene and leaving three of their group behind.
When it was all over, three people suffered stabbed wounds. The police arrested twelve people including five Klansmen and seven protesters. Four of the arrested people were released soon after.
The department maintained that its goal was to prevent violence in the city. It maintained that it would arrest anyone who assaults another person, regardless of which side that person is on.
Chris Barker identified himself as a member of the KKK. He told AP that the demonstration was designed to be a peaceful protest of immigration policies. Barker defended the Klansmen on the scene, saying they acted in self-defense.
The arrested Klan members were later released. Police said there was evidence that the Klansmen had acted in self-defense.
Still, the public continues to ask the Anaheim Police Department about why there was not a uniformed presence on site at the time of the protest.
The fight broke out only three miles from Disneyland. The location sounds counterintuitive. But, in the early 20th century, the KKK were in control of the City Council. The group also regularly patrolled the city’s streets. The city ran the Klan out of town in 1924.
Now, Anaheim is home to 350,000 people and a Hispanic majority.
Yet, the Ku Klux Klan is still active in the area surrounding area. In January 2015, fliers distributed to homes in Santa Ana read, “On Martin Luther King Day, you are celebrating a communist pervert.”
The signature on the fliers said that the authors were the “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Despite the latest flare up, KKK activity has decreased across the board over the last few decades. Researchers believe the group has somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 members nationally.
[Photo By Getty Images/Spencer Platt]