A bloody, noisy brawl erupted Thursday night between Ku Klux Klansmen and anti-Klan demonstrators outside the Glendale Central Library, where a controversial debate was scheduled over the so-called Pace Amendment--a proposal to deport from the United States everyone not of Western European heritage.
Fearing further violence, organizers canceled the debate, which had also attracted leaders of the Nazi Party and the Jewish Defense League.
One Klansman was badly bloodied about the face and a few other people appeared to suffer bruises, but no one required immediate hospitalization, authorities said.
One demonstrator with a group calling themselves the International Committee Against Racism (InCAR) was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace, police said.
Hope to Disrupt Meeting
Carrying red and yellow banners and chanting "Hitler rose, Hitler fell; racist pigs, go to hell," about 30 demonstrators from InCAR and the Progressive Labor Party came to Glendale in hopes of disrupting the meeting, their spokesmen said.
"We don't believe Fascists should have free speech," said InCAR member Cathy Brinkman of Los Angeles.
The debate, which never began, was scheduled by the Glendale Human Rights Council and was to pit a spokesman for that civil rights group against the leader of the League of Pace Amendment Advocates. That organization moved its headquarters to Glendale earlier this year and is pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would deny citizenship and most residency to blacks, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Arabs and Native Americans.
Over the last few weeks, representatives of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith had asked that the meeting not be held because they feared it would bring unmerited publicity to what they consider to be a small, fringe group.
Standing amidst the noisy chaos of shouting demonstrators inside the library auditorium on Thursday night, Ray Reyes, chairman of the Glendale Human Rights Council, said he was saddened by the violence. But he added he had no regrets over not heeding advice to cancel the debate weeks ago.
"Sometimes a circus environment is required to focus on the issues," he said.
The main issue, Reyes said, was whether Glendale seems to be a congenial home for racists. But, given the fisticuffs and the screaming matches, Reyes said it would have been "absurd" to try to begin the debate. He said he might try to hold the event at a later date.
Meanwhile, standing quietly in the corner, unnoticed by most of the estimated 150 demonstrators and audience members, was the main attraction, the man who calls himself Daniel Johnson, the spokesman for the Pace Amendment Advocates.
Johnson said he was "distressed" by the violence and said he had nothing to do with the arrival of the Klansmen and Nazis.
"I certainly would like to have a peaceful dialogue . . . I would like our movement to attract the average American citizen concerned about their nation, not just these fringe groups," he said.
The Pace Advocates supposedly are named after James O. Pace, the pseudonymous author of a 1986 book about the amendment. Johnson denies speculation that he is the real Pace and insists the author is an attorney living abroad.
Taunts, Then Fists
Trouble began Thursday when the InCAR contingent began walking in a circle, banners hoisted, in front of the library. Soon, taunts and then, suddenly, fists were exchanged with the Klansmen, who stood nearby, some wearing T-shirts bearing the Klan cross. The fights lasted about five minutes until police, who had been guarding the auditorium on the second floor, rushed downstairs.
At the same time, Irv Rubin, national chairman of the JDL, exchanged angry insults with Stanley Witek, chairman of the National Socialist American Workers Party.
Later, Rubin said he was disappointed the meeting never began.
"I think it's a shame. It was a chance for the public to hear about the Pace Amendment, which is Nazism in its most sophisticated form."
Banner Torn to Pieces
Later, the groups moved upstairs where the shouting and provocations continued. At one point, Nazis grabbed the banner of the InCAR group and tore it to pieces. Then demonstrators charged Witek and threw chairs at him. He was escorted out by police.
The library was still open to the reading public and, at one point, police had to escort a group of frightened parents and children from the young people's reading room across the hall from the auditorium.
By 7:20, twenty minutes after the debate was to have begun, police ushered everyone outside. Chanting continued for about another 15 minutes and then the crowd dissolved with each side blaming the other for starting the trouble.
Ron Grimble of Ontario, a member of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was cut above the eyebrow in the fight and was bleeding down his face and shirt.
The man who was arrested, Bradford Hills, 22, of Pasadena, was released after posting $500 bail, police said.
Betsy Rosenthal, the Western States counsel of the Anti-Defamation League who had strongly urged Reyes not to schedule the debate, said: "Everything that happened was to be expected. I warned them about this and it all happened and more."
Times staff writer Stephanie O'Neill contributed to this article.