5 KKK members released after Anaheim rally arrests

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Violence broke out when Ku Klux Klan demonstrators and counterprotesters fought in Anaheim, California on February 27, 2016. Five people were injured and 13 people arrested.

Five Ku Klux Klan members were released from jail Sunday, a day after they were arrested during a brawl in Anaheim, California, Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Daron Wyatt said Monday.

“It was pretty convincing that the KKK members were attacked violently,” Wyatt said. “We had to do the right thing.”

The hate group members were among a dozen people arrested Saturday after a melee broke out between KKK demonstrators and counterprotesters, the Anaheim Police Department said Sunday in a statement.

Police said they determined the Klan members were acting in self-defense, based on dozens of interviews with witnesses and people arrested at the scene, as well as videos and still photographs of the incident.

A 13th person, a juvenile male, was arrested on Sunday for assault with a deadly weapon, based on video evidence, Anaheim police said.

Investigators are still looking for an additional suspect whom they didn’t name.

Wyatt said the KKK planned a “walking protest” at Pearson Park on Saturday. The counterprotesters arrived beforehand and attacked when the Klan supporters got out of their vehicles around noon, he said.

“This regrettable incident was the result of approximately 10-20 individuals who came to the park with the intent of perpetrating violence. Of those arrested, only one is a resident of Anaheim. The remainder came from other cities and counties to insert themselves into the situation,” Anaheim police said.

Several fights broke out along a city block involving six KKK members — none wearing the traditional KKK robes — and 30 counterprotesters.

Three counterprotesters were stabbed: one with the decorative end of a flagstaff, one with a knife and one with an object the police did not describe, Wyatt said.

The person stabbed with the flagstaff was hospitalized in critical condition and the other two were in stable condition, police said.

Police witnessed one KKK demonstrator being stomped by two males and one female. Another KKK member told police he’d been stomped and might have broken ribs, Wyatt said.

The first KKK member had minor injuries and was not hospitalized, police said, and the second one was hospitalized in stable condition.

Seven counterprotesters — six males and one female — and the five KKK members — four males and one female — were initially arrested, Anaheim police said.

The district attorney’s office will decide what, if any, charges will be filed, Wyatt said.

He said anyone with cell phone video of the fight should contract police.

The police department talked about the planned KKK protest on its Facebook page Friday, saying, “This group has held similar rallies throughout Orange County over the past few years. Members of the sponsoring group typically pass out literature and hold signs with messages, which while controversial, are protected by the First Amendment. APD will be monitoring the situation for any violations of law.”

The department was aware of the counterprotest as well, and said in a statement that a “contingent of personnel were dedicated to the event.”

In Sunday’s statement, Anaheim police added, “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.”

CNN’s Jeffrey Acevedo contributed to this report.

By Mark Morgenstein, Ralph Ellis and Carma Hassan

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