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Prosecutors to consider charging anti-KKK protesters in Anaheim melee

Orange County prosecutors will consider filing charges Tuesday against a handful of counter-protesters who allegedly punched, kicked and stabbed a group of Ku Klux Klan members at a park in Anaheim over the weekend, authorities said.

Members of the group, part of a larger counter-protest contingent that showed up at Pearson Park on Saturday morning to confront a planned KKK rally, were seen on camera rushing the klansmen as soon as they exited their vehicles, Anaheim police said.

The rally’s theme was to be “white lives matter” and Klan members were expected to pass out fliers to park visitors. The klansmen weren’t wearing white robes and hoods from the Klan of yesteryear, but black shirts with patches of the Confederate flag, the KKK insignia and their respective ranks, among others. One man had a patch reading “Grand Dragon.”

The fracas turned into a violent melee that left three people stabbed before police rushed in; 13 people were arrested in all, including one Klan member.

But after reviewing video evidence, the Klan member was released from custody, officials said. A few of the counter-protesters who were arrested were released without being booked and at least one has posted bail – giving authorities more time to investigate the incident before presenting their report to prosecutors.

But at least four people remain in custody and are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, jail records show. They are: Marquis Turner, 20, of Anaheim and Guy Harris, 19, both of whom are accused of assault with a deadly weapon; and Mark Liddell, 26, of Los Angeles and Hugo Contreras, 38, of Hawthorne, who are both accused of elder abuse.

Police are still looking for one man seen on video attacking a klansman who managed to get away, officials said. Anaheim police have been criticized since the melee for not being present at the park sooner.

But Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said they could have had 30 officers stationed at the park and it would not have stopped the rogue group of counter-protesters from launching themselves onto the klansmen.

“People are pointing their fingers at the Police Department. The Police Department didn’t incite this violence. The protesters did, the counter-protesters did. When are they going to be held accountable?” he said.

The klansmen had requested that police be there to provide security, but the department refused, Wyatt said. When department officials told the group there are protocols for hiring officers for security but that it cost money, the group turned Anaheim police down, Wyatt said.

The klansmen then asked if they could hire their own private, armed security for the event. Again, police said no – that’s illegal, Wyatt said.

So instead, the group showed up alone and unarmed. Wyatt said, unlike previous gatherings, the media announced the Klan was meeting ahead of Saturday’s rally and in at least one case, encouraged counter-protesters to show up.

“If it wasn’t a full media presence, it might have just remained peaceful,” Wyatt said. “We’ll certainly evaluate how it went down.”

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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