Unmasking San Francisco’s Klansman
Charles Edward Donner—the San Francisco Klansman accused of stabbing three people in Anaheim during a highly publicized melee that broke out on Feb. 27—looked normal when he briefly exited his home, directly across from the iconic Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina, to move his car on March 1.
He was neatly dressed in slacks and a white button-down shirt, in stark contrast to the all-black uniform decorated with Confederate Klansman regalia he boasted just days before. But the bruise below his eye—the likely result of a punch or kick to the face—gave him away.
When Donner was asked about his KKK affiliation outside of his home, he declined to comment.
Donner was one of the more visible KKK members during the anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rally in Anaheim; his knife-wielding image was captured in multiple photographs and graphic video and widely shared across social media.
The KKK rally had been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27 at Pearson Park in Anaheim, but several anti-KKK protesters confronted the small group of Klansmen, who had driven to the event in a black SUV. Violence ensued before the rally officially started, and the SUV sped off, leaving Donner and two other Klansmen behind, according to the Los Angeles Times.
After being arrested Saturday by Anaheim police on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, bail was set at $25,000, but Donner was released on Sunday without charge. According to the New York Times, Anaheim police determined that Donner had acted in self-defense.
A seeming contradiction
The news that the lone Klansman held in police custody over the weekend calls San Francisco his home, came as a shock to many.
El Tecolote has learned that Donner is the 51-year-old son of two longtime San Francisco residents, who formerly resided at what is now Donner’s home in the Marina. California Superior Court records show that Donner petitioned to change his last name from D’Honau to Donner in late 1986. Donner’s father died in San Francisco on Feb. 5, 1997, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to his obituary. Further research into the D’Honau family history revealed seeming contradictions with Donner’s white supremacy affiliations.
Donner’s family, El Tecolote learned, has ties to Catholicism and Judaism, both of which have been well-documented targets of the Klan.
Donner’s father was born in New Jersey and attended the Princeton University, where he majored in psychology and where he was the circulation manager of The Daily Princetonian. There, he was also a member of the Catholic Club.
Donner’s father also worked as eastern advertising manager for Life magazine’s international editions in 1964, and eventually sold advertising space for Vogue and Seventeen magazines before joining Time, Inc., according to the obituary.
From 1965 to 1984 Donner’s father served as the Asia publishing director of Time, where he was based in Tokyo, Japan. According to the obituary, Donner’s father was called the “The American Samurai” by his Japanese colleagues and was a “consummate international person.”
Donner’s father also became the president of the Princeton Club of Japan, and his favorite haiku reportedly read: “In my garden, native plants, foreign plants, growing together.” The obituary also mentioned that Donner’s father belonged to the Presidio golf club in San Francisco.
Further investigation of Donner’s ancestry revealed that his New York-born paternal grandfather, William D’Honau, was the son of German immigrants. William D’Honau’s “native tongue” was listed in the 1920 United States Federal Census as “Yiddish,” suggesting that Donner has Jewish family ties.
El Tecolote contacted Donner’s brother for comment.
“I don’t have any comments on this,” said Donner’s brother when asked about his brother’s affiliation with the KKK over the phone. “All I can say is he’s very mentally ill.”