Ku Klux Klan violence members released
Five Ku Klux Klan members were released Sunday after police officials said there evidence to show that they acted in self-defense during the Sunday clashes near Pearson Park in Anaheim, California. In this photo, police officers investigate the scene of clashes in Anaheim after three counter-protesters were stabbed during clashes with Ku Klux Klan members, Feb. 27, 2016. Getty Images/AFP/Ringo Chiu

Five members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were arrested in Anaheim, California after violent clashes on Saturday, have been released after authorities said Sunday that evidence suggested they were acting in self-defense. The clashes began as six men from the KKK gathered at Pearson Park in Anaheim for a planned anti-immigration rally, while a larger group had gathered to conduct a counter rally, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The Klansmen were wearing black clothes with Confederate flags sown on them and arrived at the protest site in an SUV, carrying signs that read “White Lives Matter.” Several protesters smashed the windows of the SUV which later sped away, leaving the Klansmen outnumbered. The protesters were seen kicking a man wearing a shirt that read “Grand Dragon” and moments later, one protester fell down bleeding, saying he had been stabbed with the tip of a flagpole. The KKK member detained in connection said he stabbed the protester in “self-defense.” In all, three people were stabbed in the clash and seven people — who remain in custody — were seen beating, stomping and attacking the Klansmen with wooden posts, Sgt. Daron Wyatt said, according to AP.

The KKK members were booked for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon, and though they have been released, prosecutors will review the case to see if criminal charges are to be filed. Wyatt said that the seven still in custody were booked for assault with a deadly weapon, or elder abuse for stomping on a Klan member who was over 65 years old. One protester is still at large. Chris Barker, who identified himself as the imperial wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, said members of his group were holding a peaceful demonstration and acted in self-defense.

A statement from the police said the clash was started by the larger group of up to 20 counter-protesters who had “the intent of perpetrating violence.” The statement also said, according to the AP: “Regardless of an individual or groups' beliefs or ideologies, they are entitled to live without the fear of physical violence and have the right, under the law, to defend themselves when attacked.”

Police Chief Raul Quezada, said, according to AP, that all the members involved in the clashes, except the counter-protester who still remains at large, had been detained.

Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino and was present at the clash site for research, told AP that he was left protecting the Klansmen until police officials could reach the scene. “(The counter-protesters) were so angry, they would have torn these folks limb from limb,” Levin said, according to AP, adding: “I was afraid for their lives.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Anaheim reportedly has 53 percent Hispanic peope while 27 percent of the population in the city is white, as compared to 95 percent white people nearly a century ago.

“We're a far cry from those terrible times and the Klan is really an anachronism,” Levin said, according to AP, adding: “Anaheim is now a diverse community that is in many ways an amusement and sports capital of California. This is just an example of how a small group of people can tarnish the name of a community.”

Several videos and images of the clash were posted on the internet by people present at the location.