Still, Lay writes, the council’s “actions reflected the KKK’s specific and general objectives.” That summer, 10,000 Klansmen from across the state paraded through the city while a plane adorned by glowing crosses passed above. The rally ended at Anaheim City Park, where nearly 15,000 recruits were initiated into the order and celebrated with a fireworks display.
This onetime show of strength was but a faint memory at a KKK rally in Anaheim this Saturday, when a total of six Klan members arrived at a park to denounce “illegal immigration and Muslims,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The counter-protesters, by contrast, were several dozen in number. When the Klan members pulled up in an SUV wearing black outfits with Confederate flag patches, the protesters had already been peacefully gathered for hours.
Witnesses told Reuters and the Associated Press that the protesters began throwing sticks and other items when the KKK car appeared with signs that read “White Lives Matter.”
The encounter quickly descended into violence, as one Klan member was seen with a knife and another using the decorative end of a flag pole as a weapon.
One man could be heard screaming, “I got stabbed,” the AP reported, as he lifted up his T-shirt to reveal a spouting wound. A nearby fire hydrant was splattered with blood.
By the end, three people had been stabbed, one critically. All were believed to be counter-protesters.
Five KKK members were initially arrested, but they were released on Sunday because police said they acted in self-defense. Seven counter-protesters remain in custody for allegedly beating, stomping and attacking the Klansmen with wooden posts.
At the start of the fight, three KKK members immediately fled back inside their SUV and drove off, witness Brian Levin told the Times. The remaining three were left to “fend for themselves,” said Levin, who directs Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and was interviewing Klansmen at the protest.
Levin said he pushed a ringleader of the Klan rally away from the crowd as counter-protesters approached.
“How do you feel that a Jewish guy just saved your life?” Levin asked, referring to himself.
To this, the man responded: “Thank you.”
Anaheim police have been criticized for their response, which left chaos in its wake. A crowd of 100 applauded as they watched the Klansmen being arrested.
Yet, without the authorities, Levin told the Times, the KKK members “would have been torn limb from limb.” Police said in a statement Saturday that they were aware of the planned rally and counter-protest and had assigned officers to the location.
“Even if the vast majority of our community disagrees with a particular group who visits our city we cannot stop them from lawfully gathering to express their opinions,” Police Chief Raul Quezada said in the statement.
Others present blamed the Klansmen for the brawl. Martin Buenorostro told the Times that his friend was the one who had been critically injured.
“They started pulling out weapons,” Buenorostro said. “One of them had the flag, the American flag, with the pointed top and I think that’s what got my friend. It’s a serious wound. It wasn’t like the blood was dripping out. It gushed out of him.”
The critically injured man is now in stable condition.
KKK membership has been on the decline for decades, falling from a peak of 4 million in 1925 to between 5,000 and 8,000 Klansmen today, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its rallies tend to attract more reporters and counter-protesters than Klansmen.
But one Republican presidential candidate may be turning the tide for latent white nationalists.
Rachel Pendergraft, a national organizer for a Ku Klux Klan subgroup known as the Knights Party, told The Washington Post that Donald Trump’s ascendance has opened “a door to conversation.”
“They like the overall momentum of his rallies and his campaign,” she said. “They like that he’s not willing to back down. He says what he believes and he stands on that.”
Trump, who has garnered support for such proposals as building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and barring all Muslims from entry, has made “the native tongue of disaffected whites” mainstream, The Post’s Peter Holley and Sarah Larimer wrote last week.
The former “Grand Wizard” of the KKK, David Duke, told his followers last week that voting for anyone other than Trump “is really treason to your heritage.”
The GOP candidate disavowed Duke’s semi-endorsement, but said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning that he would have to do more research before forming an opinion on white supremacist groups.
“You know, I know nothing about David Duke,” Trump said on the show. “I know nothing about white supremacists.”