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An expected ‘white lives matter’ rally scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Huntington Beach Pier never got off the ground Sunday, after flyers and media reports about the event circulated in the days leading up. 

Instead, small scuffles and fist fights broke out between a few individuals who chose to confront a crowd of several hundred that came out to counter protest the planned rally.

A driver records a debate among protestors on Main St. in Huntington Beach on April 11, 2021. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Meanwhile, city officials and anti-racism organizations held virtual, non-physical forums the same day.

12 people were arrested at the protests, according to a press release from the city.

Huntington Beach Police Lt. Brian Smith told the Voice of OC that reasons for the arrests during todays events ranged from fighting in public to public intoxication to possession of pepper spray.

Police declared the protest an unlawful assembly around 2:36 p.m., according to the Huntington Beach Police Department’s Facebook page.

The declaration was to disperse what police described as an “unruly crowd.” Such dispersal orders were used at Black Lives Matter protests in Orange County last year.

The city’s own police force turned out in considerable numbers — some wielding batons, and many on standby all around the pier and even from the roof of a nearby burger joint.

Huntington Beach police also saw reinforcements with officers from the Anaheim Police Dept. and the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept who sent officers on horseback for support. 

Live streams on social media and YouTube showed mostly verbal confrontations between individuals and groups of counter protesters, though some escalated to physical altercations.

One live stream captured a man punching another man in the downtown area. People on the live stream said the assailant had a Swastika tattoo and the assailant was arrested shortly after.

Crowd gathers on Main Street and PCH intersection where Black Lives Matter protest converges with people holding Trump flags. Credit: GARRETT TROUTMAN, Voice of OC

All the drama stems from a flyer promoting a “White Lives Matter” rally at the pier on April 11, which circulated online, as well as reports of Ku Klux Klan flyers being left at people’s homes in the downtown area earlier this month.

Police officials on the day of the rally told reporters they weren’t sure who exactly organized the rally, despite media reports by the Los Angeles Times and Spectrum News reporting it was organized by the Loyal White Knights, which is one of the largest Klan groups in the U.S.

“Our information came solely from social media,” Smith said to reporters in Huntington Beach. “We attempted to identify an organizer or a leader or even who did the initial post but we were unable to establish that.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

Julie Leopo is the Voice of OC Director of Photography. Contact her at jleopo@voiceofoc.org or on Instagram @julieleopo.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

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