Local officials and activists are condemning a planned rally Saturday by Ku Klux Klan members in Anaheim.
Ada Briceño, interim executive director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, a local advocacy organization, said she was disappointed to hear about the event.
“It’s really sad that it’s 2016 and we still are seeing this hatred and racism,” she said. “What they believe in, what they practice and what they say is actually very destructive.”
Briceño said her group would be hosting a citizenship fair Saturday at an Anaheim community college aimed at helping hundreds of immigrants navigate the citizenship process.
“We’re going to engage the immigrant community while these guys talk about their hate and their anger,” she said.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he was surprised to hear about the rally.
“Even though they have a right to do it, doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said. “There’s no place for that in Anaheim.”
As many as 20 people representing the Klan 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 counter-protest, Wyatt said. It was not immediately clear what prompted the rally, though Wyatt said the group told police that 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 group has a long and troubling history with the city. Klansmen were once the dominant political force in Anaheim, holding 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.
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 MLK 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.”
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