Violence at Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim: Police defend their actions

Anaheim police have defended their handling of a Ku Klux Klan rally that left three people with stab wounds and 13 people arrested.

Some witnesses said they saw little police activity when the violence began. But in a statement, Anaheim officials said they had officers on scene and that they were able to quickly make arrests when the violence broke out.

Mayor Tom Tait said Sunday that police were present when the fighting broke out, and some of those were plainclothes officers.

“They are doing an internal review so the next time this happens” it can be improved, he said. “I am cautious not to Monday morning quarterback the police…. It is a tough job here."

Anaheim police said they were prepared.

“There were officers there. We had a plan in place, “ said Sgt. Daron Wyatt, adding they quickly responded to the violence taking a dozen people into custody and treating the injured.

“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 captured on video.

Wyatt would not provide any specifics on how many officers were on hand  But he said going forward the department may reevaluate whether additional officers are needed at such protests.

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He said the department chose to not be more of a visible presence to avoid provoking potential anti-police sentiments among protesters, noting the rally was protected by the 1st Amendment. “It is a balance act,” he said. “We don’t want look like we are taking anyone's side.”

A small group of people representing the klan had announced that it would hold a rally at Pearson Park at 1:30 p.m., police said. By 11 a.m., several dozen protesters had shown up to confront the klan.

About an hour later, several men in black garb with Confederate flag patches arrived in an SUV near the edge of the park.

Fighting broke out moments after klan members exited the vehicle. Some of the protesters could be seen kicking a man whose shirt read “Grand Dragon.” At some point, a protester collapsed on the ground bleeding, crying that he had been stabbed.

A klansman in handcuffs could be heard telling a police officer that he “stabbed him in self-defense.” Several other people were also handcuffed.

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

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

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said he was standing near the KKK members when several protesters attacked them with 2-by-4s and other weapons.

Several of the klan members jumped in the SUV and sped off, leaving three others to “fend for themselves,” Levin said.

Levin had been trying to interview the KKK ringleader, whom he identified as William Quigg of Anaheim.

Quigg is the leader of the Loyal White Knights in California and other Western states, a unit of the hate group, Levin said. They see themselves as a “klan without robes” and model themselves after David Duke, the Louisiana-based former grand wizard of the klan, Levin said.

Levin said he was standing next to Quigg when a crowd of protesters swarmed the klan members. Levin said he pushed the klan leader away as the violence continued and a protester was stabbed.

Levin said he asked Quigg, “How do you feel that a Jewish guy just saved your life?”

“Thank you,” the klan leader replied, according to Levin.

A few minutes later, a crowd of about 100 people cheered when police handcuffed Quigg and one of his followers.

Many people at the park demanded to know why Anaheim police did not have a larger presence before the violence broke out.

Levin was also critical of the lack of a police presence. “There were no police officers here when this started happening,” he said.

“It was the longest few minutes between when the SUV was attacked and when the police responded in droves,” Levin said.

“I think the police response saved their lives,” he added, referring to klan members. “They would have been torn limb from limb.”

On Sunday, Levin reiterated his concerns.

“There was no uniform police presence when I arrived,” he said, adding two police officers arrived well after the violence had begun.

Here is a list of some of those arrested from the Anaheim police:

Charles Edward Donner, 51, of San Francisco, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000.

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.

Anaheim officials released a photo of an outstanding suspect.

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3:05 p.m. Updated with comment from Anaheim police. 

2:12 p.m. Updated with comment from Anaheim mayor.

12:01 p.m. Updated with more concerns expressed by Brian Levin about police response.

This post was originally published at 9:46 a.m.