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Ku Klux Klan plans rally in Anaheim, sparking concern from residents

A small group of self-described Ku Klux Klan members have planned a rally in Anaheim on Saturday, drawing the ire of some residents, who have planned a counterprotest.

As many as 20 people representing the hate group are expected to descend on Pearson Park around 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Sgt. Daron Wyatt, an Anaheim police spokesman.

A man claiming to be part of the rally notified Anaheim police of the event after the group learned that some people had planned a counterprotest, Wyatt said. It was not immediately clear what prompted the rally, though Wyatt said the group told police the theme of the event may be that “white lives matter too.”

It was not clear what, if any, connection the event organizers had to the Anaheim area, but the hate group has a long and troubling history with the city. Klansmen were once the dominant political force in Anaheim, owning four of five City Council seats before a recall effort led to their ouster in 1924.

At the height of its power in Orange County, nearly 300 Klansmen lived in Anaheim, patrolling city streets in robes and masks. A large KKK rally once attracted 20,000 people to the city.

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KKK activity nationwide has decreased dramatically in recent decades, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which estimated the group has between 5,000 and 8,000 members across the country.

The group’s activities have been sporadic in Southern California in recent years. Last summer, at least 100 residents of Whittier and Fullerton awoke to find packets containing KKK fliers, rife with racist rhetoric, and candy in their driveways. A Santa Ana neighborhood was also blanketed with KKK fliers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year, police there said.

An 8-foot cross was burned outside the home of a black man in Anaheim Hills in 2003, and the FBI investigated the case as a hate crime, but police did not specifically link that case to the KKK.

Wyatt said “one or two” self-described KKK members have been seen in the city in the past two years. They drove through the Pearson Park neighborhood and distributed literature on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he said.

“Members of the sponsoring group typically pass out literature and hold signs with messages, which while controversial, are protected by the First Amendment,” the department wrote in a Facebook post published on Friday.

Officers cannot interfere with a lawful demonstration, and Wyatt advised people to stay away from the area on Saturday morning.

“I wouldn’t want to take my kids to the park to play soccer if I knew people were going to be engaged in this kind of behavior on this day,” he said. “So if you don’t need to be there, don’t go there.”

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

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

5:30 p.m.: This article was updated with background on Anaheim and the KKK.

This article was originally published at 2:35 p.m.

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