A man stabbed by a Ku Klux Klan member at a February rally in Anaheim has joined local activists in demanding that the City Council investigate how police handled the event.
Tom Bibiyan, a protester, was stabbed during an altercation at Pearson Park on Feb. 27.
“I was unarmed, taken to the hospital in critical condition,” Bibiyan told council members on Tuesday, complaining that detectives did not follow up on his attack and call him for questioning until this month. “The person who did this is walking free.”
Another activist also criticized police, saying officers did not intervene early enough to prevent or break up violence at the event.
“Top brass are trying to cover up the fact that Anaheim police did not do their job correctly,” said Anaheim activist Duane Roberts, who called for an immediate investigation.
According to the Anaheim Police Department, Bibiyan was stabbed after he attacked someone in the KKK group. Officers attempted to interview him after he was hospitalized, but he requested a lawyer and was not interviewed at that time, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.
“My understanding is that he was interviewed later by a detective and he admitted that he initiated an assault upon one of the KKK members, at which time he was stabbed,” Wyatt said. “He was ultimately tackled by an officer as he was trying to get back at one of the KKK members and continue the assault.”
Three people were stabbed and all were part of the protester group, Wyatt said. They were all stabbed by the same person in the KKK group, he said.
“When you look at the video, it's clear that that person was either acting in self-defense, or defense of his other friends that were being attacked,” Wyatt said. “Everybody is up in arms about why didn't the KKK people go to jail.... They arrived and were immediately attacked. Anybody has the right to self-defense when they're attacked.”
The chaos erupted hours after Klan members had said they would arrive for a demonstration at Pearson Park. Dozens of demonstrators arrived early to shout down the Klan’s message and criticize other societal issues, including police brutality and income inequality. A smaller group had also milled around the park, promising to injure Klan members if they arrived.
When the Klan group got out of a van on Cypress Street, a group rushed toward them, setting off a string of brawls up and down the block. One man was stabbed near the area where the Klan members got out of their van. Another protester collapsed to the ground a short time later, bleeding profusely, as police tackled a Klansman and placed him in handcuffs. The Klansman could be heard telling a police officer that he “stabbed him in self-defense” as he was forced to the ground.
Initially, police arrested five of the KKK members and as the investigation played out and officers looked at photographs and video and conducted in-depth interviews, police were able to “ascertain that there was clear and convincing evidence that all of the KKK people were truly victims,” Wyatt said.
“At that point we were legally, morally and ethically obligated to release them when we realized they had been attacked,” he said.
Seven protesters, including five men, one woman and a male juvenile, could face charges, along with two or three others who were not arrested because they were hospitalized and “may also potentially be looking at criminal charges,” Wyatt said.
Roxi Fyad, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney’s office, said her agency and the Anaheim Police Department are investigating the violence at the park.
The agencies have been reviewing surveillance footage from the incident to determine charges against those initially booked by Anaheim police and possible additional suspects, Fyad said.
As of Tuesday, no one had been charged.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said that those calling for a city investigation into how the rally was handled have a right to present their case to the council.
“We represent the people of Anaheim and if it warrants a further investigation, then we'll look into that,” Tait said.
Times staff writers James Queally and Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.