Violence broke out on Saturday when Ku Klux Klan demonstrators and counter-protesters fought in Anaheim, California, leaving five people injured and thirteen people arrested, authorities said.
Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Daron Wyatt said the KKK planned a walking protest at Pearson Park.
However, the counter-protesters arrived beforehand and attacked when the KKK got out of their vehicles around noon, he said.
Several fights broke out along a city block involving six KKK members and 30 counter-protesters.
Three counter-protesters were stabbed; one with the decorative end of a flagstaff, one with a knife and one with an object the police did not describe, Wyatt said.
The person stabbed with the flagstaff was hospitalized in critical condition and the other two were in stable condition, police said.
Police witnessed one KKK demonstrator being stomped by by two male and a female counter-protesters. Another KKK member told police he’d been stomped and might have broken ribs, Wyatt said.
The first KKK member had minor injuries and was not hospitalized, police said, and the second one was hospitalized in stable condition.
Among those arrested were six male and one female counter-protesters and five male and one female KKK member, Wyatt said.
The district attorney’s office will decide what, if any, charges will be filed, he said.
Wyatt said anyone with cell phone video of the fight should contract police.
The police department talked about the planned KKK protest on its Facebook page on Friday, saying, “This group has held similar rallies throughout Orange County over the past few years. Members of the sponsoring group typically pass out literature and hold signs with messages, which while controversial, are protected by the First Amendment. APD will be monitoring the situation for any violations of law.”
A witness, Darren Simpson told Reuters, “These Klan guys were fighting for their lives”.
“A lot of us were trying to break it up,” another witness, Dion Garcia said.
“This was not necessary, they should’ve just let the Klan protest. This is America, we have free speech.”
Another witness, Brian Levin, said after helping a Klansman away from the crowd, he asked him: “How does it feel that your life was just saved by a Jewish man?”
“Thank you,” the man replied, according to Mr Levin.
“All hell broke loose” Mr Levin said. “I thought they were going to stomp these Klansmen to death”.
The Ku Klux Klan is one of the oldest and most infamous hate groups in the US, and has targeted African Americans, Jews, Catholics and immigrants, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
The group has a long history in Anaheim, with KKK members elected to the city council in the 1920s.