Lost in the chaos of yesterday's free-for-all at Anaheim's Pearson Park, where a group of protesters beat up Ku Klux Klan members only to get stabbed by them, was one fascinating story: a Jew was all that stood between the Klan and an even-worse beatdown for them.
Brian Levin is director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, and a mensch we profiled in 2009. He was there at the protest because he's been tracking the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (which organized the event) for years, especially as their activity has increased in Orange County. Levin had just returned from grabbing some tacos when he noticed a "phalanx" of anti-racist activist rushing toward an SUV. The professor ran over there, where he found a smashed back window, and two Klansmen getting the living shit beat out of them.
"There was no uniformed police presence at all," Levin said. So he threw himself between the Klukkers and the protestors, shouting "Do not hit them! Do not hit them!"
"The protesters were going to tear these guys limb for limb," he said. "I don't know how long I could've held them back. Only one other guy tried to stop them. I've seen this before: You don't want a hostile crowd with a stationary target on the ground. Once you get a crowd going, it doesn't stop."
He got the Klansmen up and walking away from the protestors, hands outward and continuing to shout at the protestors to leave the Invisible Empire alone. "I felt that we should keep them moving," Levin said. Eventually, the police came to restore order.
I intervene in attack on LWK Grand Dragon at OC Rally 2/27 No rebroadcast, TV or retransmission other than retweets pic.twitter.com/tBgtOuoEPA— Brian Levin (@proflevin) February 28, 2016
Levin–who used to work for the Southern Poverty Law Center and has represented Klan victims in court–called the KKK beatdown "terrible. It's a disgrace. This is precisely what the Klan wants. Does violence elevate us better than the Klan? I loathe the Klan. But these loathsome people can use their First Amendment rights in the free markets of ideas. Let them sit where they are for 20 minutes, hand out their drivel, and leave.
"But I didn't protect them on philosophical grounds," Levin added. "They were two people on the ground, and I thought they were going to get killed."
As Levin and Quigg walked away, the professor told the head of the local Klan, "So how does it feel to have your life saved by a Jewish guy?"
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"Thank you," Quigg replied.
Klan Grand Dragon answers "How do you feel that a Jewish person helped save your life today?" LWK Rally Anahiem, CA pic.twitter.com/qsL9i9BXkB— Brian Levin (@proflevin) February 28, 2016
"Can you understand why people are incensed?" Levin told Quigg, to which the Grand Dragon insisted his group was not the Klan of old. The conversation then turned to Hitler, whom Quigg declared a "civil rights hero."
"Then I asked him about the Holocaust, and he said it never happened," Levin said. "This, after I saved his ass!"