Peaceful march held in Anaheim after KKK rally, violent brawl

A group of community and faith leaders planned to gather Monday night for a candlelight vigil and march at Pearson Park in Anaheim, which was rocked by a violent conflict between Ku Klux Klan members and counter-protesters on Saturday.

Rusty Kennedy, the executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, will be among them. He said it's important for the community to denounce hate groups like the KKK that have thrown fliers weighted down in baggies into yards in the area, including on last year's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Kennedy, however, said officials and journalists have to walk a fine line in how they publicize KKK marches beforehand.

"This is a media strategy,'' Kennedy said of KKK gatherings in public places. "Without the media, these guys would go unnoticed. They would absolutely go unnoticed without the pre-press announcing it and the counter-demonstrators wouldn't even have noticed it.''

Groups like the KKK these days have ever-dwindling membership and sparse turnouts for events, Kennedy said. In Saturday's conflict, the counter-demonstrators outnumbered the KKK group by about 30 to 6, according to police.

Kennedy pointed to a Westboro Baptist Church protest before the funeral of Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller last April as an example. The group, which is best known for making anti-gay slurs at the funerals of soldiers, sent about four of its members for a protest in front of an Anaheim high school, Kennedy said.

"A lot of us showed up ... to be a buffer and a voice of reason, and sure, enough, they showed up, only about four of them, and they were immediately mobbed by 200 people there,'' Kennedy said.

"So just a few of them created headlines just by the nasty nature of their words and the headlines drew a reaction, and that reaction tells you there's going to be some confrontation and confrontation is key to the news -- it's what always gets covered.''

In the case of Saturday's conflict, Anaheim police sent out a message on Twitter Friday warning residents to stay away from the area as there were "rumors'' of a KKK gathering and counter-protest. The tweet was a response to OC Weekly reports on the KKK gathering, Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said.

Police sent out the tweet letting residents know about the KKK gathering because there is usually some angst that goes with the distribution of racist fliers in the community, Wyatt said.

Kennedy said "it's a two-edged sword'' in news coverage of the Klan.

"When the media portrays them in advance in a big way, they contribute to them, they serve as a third arm in getting the word out,'' Kennedy said.

"If they waited until the day of their advertised demonstrations and went down there, they might have found out, yeah, there's 10 guys with funny-looking shirts on with patches all over them with people looking at them quizzically. And there'd be a few counter-demonstrators and a fairly non-newsworthy event.''

Kennedy added, however, that it is also dangerous to ignore hate groups because it may signal a sort of tacit approval.

"Their message of hate strikes terror in the heart of the community, and we as a community have to step up and say that's not welcome here," Kennedy said.

To Lowell Smith, the entire incident could have possibly been avoided.

Smith spent his career doing undercover work on groups like the KKK. He's a retired deputy probation officer, and doesn't believe Anaheim police had officers on hand or people would not have been stabbed.

Authorities knew there was going to be a demonstration. Given that, Smith said he would have set a protest zone and had police as a buffer keeping the groups apart.

Five men, who were part of the counter-protest group, sustained stab wounds in the conflict, according to Wyatt. Two were treated at the scene, one refused further treatment and two were taken to area hospitals, with one remaining hospitalized Monday with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, Wyatt said.

Police identified those who were booked in connection with the Pearson Park incident as:

-- Nicole Rae Schop, 24, of Los Angeles, who was booked on suspicion of elder abuse, with bail set at $50,000;

-- Marquis DeShawn Turner, 20, of Anaheim, who was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000;

-- Randy Felder, 25, of Lakewood, who was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000;

-- Mark Anthony Liddell, 26, of Los Angeles, who was booked on suspicion of elder abuse, with bail set at $50,000;

-- Guy Harris, a 19-year-old transient who was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000

-- Hugo Contreras, 38, of Hawthorne, who was booked on suspicion of elder abuse, with bail set at $50,000.

Schop, who listed her occupation as teacher, was released on her own recognizance, according to jail records, which indicate that at least two of the arrested suspects had been in jail earlier this month and got out after completing their punishment.

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