Donald Trump looked to clarify a muddy weekend on Monday that centered around support being shown to the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination by David Duke (former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan) following bloodshed at a KKK event in Anaheim, California.
On Sunday, Trump, in an interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper, refused to disavow support from Duke, claiming he didn’t know who Duke was. Trump said a “bad earpiece” made it difficult to hear the questions, according to CNN on Monday, while drawing attention to comments made to similar questions about Duke at a press conference on Friday – “David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?”
This came the day after KKK members and counter-protesters clashed just two miles from Disneyland, and three anti-Klan people were stabbed.
Duke had shared messages of support for Trump in Facebook posts and on the radio, where he told listeners that a vote against the former reality TV star would be “treason to your heritage.”
In Anaheim, the KKK rally on Saturday in Anaheim’s Pearson Park was small, consisting of six Klan members in black shirts in a black SUV. About 100 protesters of multiple ethnic backgrounds greeted the Klansmen upon their arrival at Pearson Park, which was no doubt chosen as the rally site because it hosted a Klan event in 1924 that drew 20,000 people. The attendance this time was much, much smaller, but the standoff quickly led to bloodshed as three protesters ended up wounded, one stabbed by a knife and one possibly stabbed by the end of a flag being swung around and another with an unidentified weapon, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s a horrible thing when people are lying on the sidewalk bleeding,” says Jim La Pointe, Sicangu Lakota and leader of a Native American rights group based in Orange County called Blue Day Society.
His group was asked to do security for the protest of the KKK rally, but left when it appeared the KKK were not going to show. His people drove to attend an anti-police brutality protest in nearby Santa Ana. They had drove only a few blocks when they heard the police sirens and returned to the KKK protest.
Photos of the melee taken by Heather Davini Boucher, a photographer of Samoan ancestry who grew up in Anaheim, soon went viral on Facebook. Boucher noted to ICTMN that Anaheim is pretty diverse and white people are a minority in the community. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city is 52 percent Latino and 28 percent White. La Pointe estimates there are between 3,000-5,000 Native Americans in Orange County.
Orange County even had an AIM chapter that organized the resistance at Ward Valley in 1998.
The Klansmen brought signs that read, “White Lives Matter, 100% American,” as well as Confederate and U.S. flags. One Klansmen can be seen in a video wildly swinging a large flagpole with a U.S. flag and attempting to stab protesters with it.
La Pointe says the strong reaction against the Klan has a lot to do with racial tensions in Anaheim, and points out that the Anaheim city council recently voted down a measure to protect people of color against police brutality in Orange County. The nearby city of Santa Ana is under police gang injunctions that the community finds repressive and racist.
He told ICTMN, “With the reactive climate and young people who have been killed and actually murdered by police—it’s not a good time for the KKK to parade around.”
“I understand the frustration is heavy,” La Pointe continued, “I think what [young people] see is that peaceful measures are not working, civil disobedience is not working and when the KKK came to town they say this is something they could do about it.”
Boucher says the police arrested the protesters first and talked to the KKK members for 45 minutes before cuffing them. According to the Los Angeles Times, Klansmen were “once the dominant political force in Anaheim, owning four of five City Council seats before a recall effort led to their ouster in 1924. At the height of its power in Orange County, nearly 300 Klansmen lived in Anaheim, patrolling city streets in robes and masks.
According to the Orange County Tribune “An auditorium, a school, a park and a mortuary still existing today” bear the names of civic leaders who were Klansmen.
Coincidentally, 1924 was also a presidential election year and the Klan was planning to run a slate of candidates. However, the size of the rally shocked more moderate white citizens and galvanized them to remove KKK members from positions of power in the city.
Boucher says, “I doubt [the KKK] will be in Anaheim and the Orange County area again anytime soon.”
Jacqueline Keeler is a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux writer living in Portland, Oregon and co-founder of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, creators of Not Your Mascot. She has been published in Telesur, Earth Island Journal and the Nation and interviewed on MSNBC and DemocracyNow and Native American Calling. She has a forthcoming book called “Not Your Disappearing Indian” and podcast. On twitter: @jfkeeler