A California Ku Klux Klan rally on Saturday ended with three anti-KKK protesters stabbed and five KKK members arrested. But Anaheim cops now say those five have been released after evidence shows they acted in self-defense, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The totality of the evidence, including videos, still pictures, and interviews, paints a pretty clear picture as to who the aggressors were," an Anaheim police sergeant says. The demonstration, which the Chicago Tribune says was meant to be an anti-immigration rally, turned violent from the get-go after six KKK members showed up around noon. Witnesses say some of the anti-protesters—who the Washington Post says numbered in the "several dozen"—started kicking a Klansman wearing a "Grand Dragon" shirt, and soon the stabbings began, including one by a KKK member using the decorative end of a flagpole.
"[The counter-protesters] were so angry, they would have torn these folks limb from limb," Brian Levin, the director of Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, tells NBC Los Angeles. Levin, who was there to record the rally for research purposes, says he ended up shielding KKK members until police could get there. "I was afraid for their lives." Levin later posted on Twitter a video of him asking one of the KKK members: "How do you feel that a Jewish person helped save your life today?" (The Klansman thanked him.) "Regardless of an individual or group's 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," a police statement read, per NBC. The seven counter-protesters who remain jailed are being held on charges of assault with a deadly weapon or elder abuse for attacking a Klan member older than 65. The three people stabbed were in stable condition at a local hospital.