KKK Members Stabbed Protesters in Self-Defense, Police Say, in Attack Caught on Video

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Police talk to a victim of a stabbing incident near a Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim, California, on February 27. Tori Richards/Reuters

Police have released five Ku Klux Klan members who were arrested on Saturday after a rally in Anaheim, California, turned into a bloody brawl, saying that the Klansmen acted in self-defense.

The violence erupted on Saturday afternoon when Klan members arrived for a planned anti-immigration rally at Anaheim's Pearson Park. The KKK members showed up in a black SUV, donning black shirts decorated with the Klan cross and Confederate flag patches, the Associated Press reported.

A group of 10 to 20 counterprotesters were waiting for the Klansmen at the park with "the intent of perpetrating violence," a police statement said. As some KKK members began pulling out "White Lives Matter" signs, counterprotesters swarmed the SUV and smashed a window, prompting the SUV's driver to take off, leaving the greatly outnumbered Klan members behind.

Seven of the counterprotesters were seen attacking Klansmen and hitting them with wooden posts, the AP reported, and the KKK members responded by stabbing three of the counterprotesters with knives and the decorative end of a flagpole.

Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, captured much of the violence on camera. He had planned to attend the rally for research purposes but was left defending the Klan members until police arrived.

"[The counterprotesters] were so angry, they would have torn these folks limb from limb," Levin told the AP. "I was afraid for their lives."

In one video Levin recorded, the Klansmen's black SUV speeds off and counterprotesters swarm a KKK member who was left behind and begin to beat him. Levin then runs to his aid.

In another video, Levin asks the Klansmen he protected, "How do you feel that a Jewish person helped save your life today?" The man responded: "I thank you. I thank you. I would have saved a colored man's life."

Police arrested five of the Klansmen and seven counterprotesters, including a minor, for suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and suspicion of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, respectively. They released the five KKK members—four men and one woman—after evidence seemed to absolve them.

"The totality of the evidence, including videos, still pictures and interviews, paints a pretty clear picture as to who the aggressors were," Anaheim police Sergeant Daron Wyatt told the Los Angeles Times. "It does appear to be self-defense and defense of another."

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said his officers were able to arrest all but one of the main participants, and authorities are now asking for the public's help in locating the suspect, who remains at large.

Though the Klansmen were released, prosecutors are still considering whether to file criminal charges against them, Quezada said.

"Regardless of an individual or group's beliefs or ideologies," the police statement said, "they are entitled to live without the fear of physical violence and have the right, under the law, to defend themselves when attacked."

KKK Members Stabbed Protesters in Self-Defense, Police Say, in Attack Caught on Video | U.S.