A violent brawl between Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members and protestors in Anaheim, California ended in stabbings and 13 arrests of people from both groups, police said. A Klansman who allegedly stabbed one of the demonstrators with a flag pole was arrested. The victim is said to be in a serious condition. "It wasn't like the blood was dripping out. It gushed out of him," said an eyewitness.
A KKK member in handcuffs could be heard telling a police officer that he "stabbed him in self-defense", said an LA Times report.
The flag pole, decorated with an American eagle emblem, is said to have wounded three demonstrators. Fighting broke out when several Confederate-flag waving Klan members met at Pearson Park for a rally against Muslims and illegal immigration. They were set upon by counter-protestors. As the Klansmen unpacked the signs reading "White Lives Matter", they were surrounded by demonstrators with wooden planks.
Some were seen kicking a man whose shirt read "Grand Dragon", the name of a high-ranking KKK member. "These Klan guys were fighting for their lives," witness Darren Simpson told Reuters.
"A lot of us were trying to break it up," said another bystander, Dion Garcia. "This was not necessary, they should've just let the Klan protest. This is America, we have free speech."
Another witness, Brian Levin, director of California State San Bernardino's Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism, helped a Klansman get away from the crowd. Levin asked the man: "How does it feel that your life was just saved by a Jewish man?"
"Thank you," the KKK member replied, according to Levin.
"All hell broke loose" Levin said. "I thought they were going to stomp these Klansmen to death".
He added: "I think the police response saved their lives. They would have been torn limb from limb."
The Klan has a long history with Anaheim, dating back to the 1920s. Klansmen were once the dominant political force in Anaheim, with four of five City Council seats. At the height of the group's power in Orange County, nearly 300 Klansmen lived in the Californian city, patrolling streets in robes and masks. A large KKK rally once attracted 20,000 people to the city.
In 2003, an eight-foot cross was burned outside the home of a black man in Anaheim Hills and was investigated by the FBI as a hate crime.