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5 KKK members released from jail after brawl in Anaheim

Five Ku Klux Klan members who were arrested at a violent melee in an Anaheim park were released from jail after a video showed they were acting in self-defense, police said Sunday.

The four men and one woman had been held  on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly stabbing three people who were demonstrating against the white supremacist group, according to a statement from the Anaheim Police Department.

Police released the five after video and other evidence appeared to exonerate them.

“The totality of the evidence, including videos, still pictures, and interviews, paints a pretty clear picture as to who the aggressors were,” Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt 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.

Seven anti-KKK protesters also were arrested during the brawl in Pearson Park and remain in police custody.

More than a dozen people gathered Sunday outside Anaheim police headquarters and carried signs demanding the release of the seven, who include one juvenile.

“Some of them are being held on trumped-up charges of elder abuse," said Debbie Leance, the group's spokeswoman. a high school teacher from Riverside.  "We're fighting for all charges to be dropped, but we're not getting answers."

Police still were looking for at least one assault suspect. They released a photo of a man, asking the public's help to identify him.

A small group of people representing the klan initially announced that it would hold the Saturday rally in the city where the group was once powerful. 

Police expected about 20 people to show up at the rally. 

Hours before the protest was to begin, several dozen anti-KKK protesters had arrived to stage a counter-demonstration.

About 12 p.m., several men in black garb with Confederate flag patches arrived in an SUV near the edge of the park. Fighting broke out moments after they got out of the car. Some of the protesters could be seen kicking a man whose shirt read “Grand Dragon.”

At some point, an anti-KKK protester collapsed on the ground bleeding, crying that he had been stabbed.

Two other anti-KKK protesters were also stabbed during the melee — one with a knife and the other with an unidentified weapon, Wyatt said.

The three stabbing victims were hospitalized in stable condition, police said.

Witnesses said the klansmen used the point of a flagpole as a weapon while fighting with protesters.

As he was escorted in handcuffs by police, one klansman told the officer that he "stabbed [a man] in self-defense."

Anaheim city officials have defended the police’s handling of the melee.

Cautioning that officers had a “tough job” trying to protect everyone, Mayor Tom Tait said that police were conducting an internal review to assess whether the department’s performance could be improved.

Wyatt said the department had a plan in place and that officers quickly responded to the violence.

“We had individuals who specifically came there to commit acts of violence, and there is nothing to do to stop that,” he said of the violent confrontation that was partly captured on video.

Klansmen were once the dominant political force in Anaheim, occupying four of five City Council seats before a recall effort led to their ouster in 1924. A KKK rally once drew 20,000 people to the city.

The seven people who remained in police custody, included a 17-year-old, who was unidentified because juveniles' names are not released.

The others were: 

Nicole Rae Schop, 24, of Los Angeles, who was arrested on suspicion of elder abuse, with bail set at $50,000.

Marquis DeShawn Turner, 20, of Anaheim, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000.

Randy Omarcc Felder, 25, of Lakewood, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000.

Mark Anthony Liddell, 26, of Los Angeles, who was arrested on suspicion of elder abuse, with bail set at $50,000.

Guy Harris, 19, a transient, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000.

Hugo Contreras, 38, of Hawthorne, who was arrested on suspicion of elder abuse, with bail set at $50,000.

For more news in California, follow @NewsTerrier@LACrimes, and @MattHjourno.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

10:15 p.m.: This story was updated throughout.

9:31 p.m.: This story was updated to include confirmation that four other people were released from police custody earlier Sunday.

This story was originally published at 5:30 p.m.

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