Around noon on Saturday, an SUV carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan pulled up to a park in Anaheim, California. A stand-off ensued between activists holding signs that read, "Freedom Has No Color," and Klansmen with titles like Grand Dragon and Exalted Cyclops whose signs read, "White Lives Do Matter Say No To Cultural Genocide." But when a man punched a hate group member in the back of the head, the scene descended into full-fledged chaos.
At one point, a man wearing a black shirt with Confederate patches on it wielded an American flag like a lance.
Eventually, a protestor wearing a studded leather jacket and a few others got close enough that the KKK member started jousting. "I'm a black man," one activist yelled before finally pouncing. "I'm here, baby."
The fight left three people stabbed and the pavement surrounding Pearson Park splattered with blood and Coca-Cola. Five people from the Klan and seven counter-protestors were arrested for participating in the gory melee. The protesters face charges ranging from assault with a deadly weapon to elder abuse, though local prosecutors have yet to indicate if they will go forward.
On Sunday, cops determined that the KKK members had acted in self defense or were merely protecting each other from instigators. As such, all five members of the hate group who were arrested have been released. Although Sergeant Daron Wyatt said the decision was based on both video evidence and interviews, it has left some residents frustrated with the city, which has a storied relationship with the Klan. In the 1920s, members of the hate group occupied four out of five of the city council seats, and nine out of ten spots on the police force. OCWeekly, a local paper, jokingly referred to Anaheim in a recent story as "Klanaheim."
A crowdfunding campaign was quickly set up to help the arrested protesters. "When the pigs came, they ended up targeting and arresting the counter protesters, many of them Black and Brown people, and not the racists who instigated the confrontation/violence in the first place," reads the campaign's page. "Not surprising."
Within five hours of the page being set up, $3,793 had been collected, and on Sunday, about a dozen people stormed the Anaheim police station to demand the protestors' release. Representatives for Santa Ana Cop Watch, the activist group behind the crowd funding campaign, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
At this stage, all three stabbing victims are in stable condition. Another protestor is still wanted by the police, and local law enforcement officials are defending how they handled the incident. They said a small group of officers—some plainclothes—were present for the rally, leaving it unclear how the situation exploded the way it did.
"We had individuals who specifically came there to commit acts of violence, and there is nothing to do to stop that," Sergeant Wyatt told the LA Times.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.