Five Klansman busted at a Ku Klux Klan rally in southern California have been freed after police determined the stabbings they were involved in were "self defence." Three counter-protesters were stabbed by the Klansmen, but investigators insist the KKK members were merely trying to protect themselves in a violent confrontation in which they were vastly outnumbered by furious foes, AP reported.

"The totality of the evidence, including videos, still pictures, and interviews, paints a pretty clear picture as to who the aggressors were" — the anti-KKK protesters, said an Anaheim police sergeant.

"Regardless of an individual or group's 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," a police statement read.

The rally on 27 February was intended to be a demonstration against immigration into the US, but it turned violent almost immediately when six members of the KKK wearing Confederate flag patches climbed out of their SUV. They were immediately attacked by several individuals among the dozens of counter-protesters already on the scene, some of whom began kicking a Klansman wearing a "Grand Dragon" t-shirt — identifying him as a Klan leader — and trying to beat him with a wooden post.

Three of the Klansmen quickly drove off, leaving the remaining three to fend for themselves. That's when the Klan crew began stabbing at their attackers, according to cops, with one using his knife and another the sharpened end of an American flag. One counter-protester was suddenly heard screaming "I got stabbed," AP reported, as he lifted up his T-shirt to reveal a wound spouting blood.

But it was the counter-protesters who were "so angry, they would have torn these folks limb from limb," Brian Levin, the director of Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, told the local Los Angeles NBC station. Levin, who recorded the rally for research purposes, said he shielded KKK members until police arrived. "I was afraid for their lives," he added.

Levin later asked one of the men how it felt to be saved by a Jew. The man thanked him. Seven counter-protesters remain jailed. They're being held on charges of assault with a deadly weapon or elder abuse for attacking a Klan member older than 65. The three people among them who were stabbed were in stable condition at a local hospital.