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Criticism of Anaheim police response to KKK rally mounts, hunt for assault suspect continues

Criticism of the Anaheim Police Department's response to a Ku Klux Klan rally that erupted in violence over the weekend continued Monday as an attorney for three people who took part in protests against the group and were arrested claimed officers broke the arm of one of his clients.

Thomas Kielty, who is representing the three protesters arrested near Pearson Park on Saturday, said Hugo Contreras suffered a broken arm as police took him into custody. Kielty said his clients were attempting to detain a klansman who had stabbed another protester and that police mistook them for aggressors when they were arrested on suspicion of elder abuse.

Contreras, a 38-year-old Hawthorne resident, was arrested along with Mark Liddell, 26, of Los Angeles, and Nicole Rae Schop, a 24-year-old high school teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

Kielty criticized the Police Department's response to the violence, which broke out when a group of counter-protesters swarmed a small group of KKK members outside the park about noon.

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There did not appear to be any uniformed officers in or around the park when the klan members first arrived, and a lengthy video of the brawl shot by a California State University professor shows officers arriving on the scene several minutes after the klan members were attacked.

“He’s treated like a filthy dirty criminal, and then [the police] are very polite and civil to these KKK guys, who have stabbed three people. All Mr. Contreras did was try to help his friend," Kielty said. “It was almost like this was set up in part by the police, for not showing up."

The three were among seven protesters arrested, according to Sgt. Daron Wyatt, a police spokesman. Three others were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and held on $25,000 bail. A juvenile was also arrested, police have said.

Five klan members were also arrested. In a statement issued Sunday, police said four of the klansmen were released after a review of video taken at the scene.

Police are still searching for one person who can be seen on video kicking William Quigg, the self-identified leader of the klan sect, in the face.

Wyatt previously said that the protesters incited the violence.

“The totality of the evidence, including videos, still pictures, and interviews, paints a pretty clear picture as to who the aggressors were,” he said. “It does appear to be self-defense and defense of another."

A final decision on whether to file charges will be made by Orange County prosecutors.

Wyatt has declined to say exactly how many officers had been in the park or comment directly on the department's response.

“We had individuals who specifically came there to commit acts of violence, and there is nothing to do to stop that,” he said.

He did not immediately respond to questions about Contreras' injuries.

Several dozen counter-protesters arrived at the park about 10 a.m., hours before the klan members arrived on Cypress Street in a black SUV. In the hours leading up to the melee, the group of protesters was largely peaceful, speaking out about police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues while denouncing the klan's message.

A smaller group of protesters, however, remained off to the side and talked about hurting the klansmen if they arrived. 

A video posted to Facebook on Sunday night shows several minutes of the violent clash and also contains comments from Quigg, the KKK leader, who can be heard saying the point of the rally was that "white lives matter."

The video, shot by Cal State San Bernardino professor Brian Levin, shows Quigg being knocked to the ground and kicked in the face. Several protesters can be seen wielding large pieces of wood and surrounding Quigg. One screams "I hope you die slow" as the crowd grows increasingly livid at the klan's presence.

"It's not about the violence!" other protesters can be heard shouting at those who attacked the klan members.

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Levin attempted to interview Quigg in the midst of the melee. Quigg repeatedly said he did not believe in white supremacy and attempted to distance himself from what he called the "old klan," but later referred to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a "communist" and described Adolf Hitler as a "great man, at the beginning."

He also promised to bring more klansmen the next time the group rallies.

“I guess next time we’re going to have to have more of California come," he said."This is just the city of Anaheim.”

Levin, who directs the university's Center for Research on Hate and Extremism, said Quigg is the self-described leader of the West Coast contingent of the Loyal White Knights, the klan's largest remaining faction. The group often attempts to gain publicity by staging rallies in neighborhoods where they know they will draw a furious response.

"The Loyal White Knights is really about inciting conflict. They were the ones who tried to put together something in support of the Mother Emmanuel Massacre shooter," said Levin, referring to the racially-motivated killings of nine people at a South Carolina church last year. "This is the loathsome level that this group seeks to descend. They like publicity and they like turning conflict around to say, 'See our point is proven.’”

Though he said Anaheim police should have been at the scene before the fight broke out, Levin credited officers with stopping further bloodshed.

"When the police responded, lives were saved, period," he said. "We can get into timing and sequences, but I know that the klansmen’s lives were saved by the police coming in."

Several community and religious groups are planning to hold a peace rally in Anaheim on Monday evening.

The group will walk from Pearson Park to City Hall, where they will host a candlelight vigil to show a "commitment to peace and non-violence in the face of hate."

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in Southern California.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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