Police were asking for the public’s help Sunday in identifying one person wanted in connection with a violent melee at a Ku Klux Klan event in Anaheim that occurred when members of the group clashed with protesters the previous day, leaving five people injured and 12 others under arrest.
The violence broke out about 12:10 p.m. Saturday when six suspected KKK members arrived at Pearson Park for a scheduled “walking protest” and were immediately confronted by 30 protesters, Sgt. Daron Wyatt of the Anaheim Police Department said in a news release.
Two alleged KKK members were “stomped on the ground” by protesters, while three protesters were allegedly stabbed by members of the white supremacist group, the release stated.
One of the protesters collapsed to the ground, crying out that he had been stabbed, the Los Angeles Times reported. A handcuffed Klansman was overheard telling an officer that he “stabbed him in self-defense.”
Witnesses at the scene told the newspaper the point of a flagpole had been used in the stabbing, though they were unsure if it was with an American or Confederate flag.
Both flags were seen at the event on Saturday.
Three of the stabbing victims were in stable condition, and one stomping victim was hospitalized. The other stomping victim refused transport despite having minor injuries, Wyatt said in the release.
Police have not yet indicated how the confrontation began, nor did they say what objects or weapons were used in the stabbings.
The melee was caught on multiple videos taken from the scene.
One graphic cellphone video captured both sides clashing in the middle of the street outside the park, screaming at each other before the violence erupted. Punches were thrown as fights broke out, and blood was splattered all over the sidewalk.
One KKK member appeared to be trying to defend himself with an American flag as protesters converged, another video from the scene showed.
The "melee in the street ... stretched almost a whole city block down Cypress Street, where a number of other fights broke out,” Wyatt said at the scene.
Several protesters, armed with two-by-fours and other weapons, attacked the Klan members, forcing several of them to jump into an SUV and flee, according to Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Levin was at the event, he told the Times.
He did not state whether the sides had clashed prior to that.
Five KKK members –- four men and a woman -- were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for the stabbings. Seven protesters -– six males and a woman –- were arrested on suspicion of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, the release said. All of the people arrested were adults, except for a male juvenile protester.
The five KKK members were later released after witness statements and images corroborated their statements that they acted in self-defense, police said.
Police also released a photo of one person, a protester, who was wanted on suspicion of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. He was the only “suspect” that remained outstanding, and police were hoping the picture would lead to someone identifying him.
Anaheim police had previously said they were aware of the planned KKK event, as well the counter protest, and had sent a contingent of law enforcement personnel to the park as a result.
“It’s important to remember that the Klan’s message, as reprehensible as many of us may feel it is, it’s protected by the First Amendment, and we can’t be getting in the middle of stopping them from doing that," Wyatt said at the scene.
Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada agreed with the sergeant.
“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,” Quezada stated in the release.
Still, the rally caught some nearby residents off guard.
“It’s crazy for them to even come over here, where there’s a majority of minorities here,” one witness told KTLA. “It’s like we’re at a different time and the world -- we got to be moving forward, and this is not helping.”
Police continued to interview witnesses in the incidents, and planned to forward their findings and recommendations for prosecution to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, according to Quezada.
Anaheim police officials asked anyone who witnessed the violent confrontation -- especially those with photographs or video -- to contact CrimeStoppers by calling 855-TIP-OCCS or visiting occrimestoppers.org.