A California circus became the site of a chaotic melee on Friday when clowns clashed with animal rights activists in front of hundreds of onlookers, KNBC reports.

The fight allegedly broke out when protesters forced their way under the big top and workers tried to stop them. Combatants, however, disagree on who initiated the violence.

“Employees locked us on the property and wouldn’t let us leave,” one demonstrator told the station. “They assaulted... multiple protestors, some with weapons.”

The circus’ ringmaster, Oliver Ramos, offered a different account:

“All of a sudden when I turned around one of them jumped on top of my uncle - he’s over 68-years-old - and they started beating on him and I reacted,” Ramos said. “When I pulled them off they hit me with a megaphone in the face and all these ladies started scratching me on the face.”

A police spokesperson said two protesters were arrested following the brawl. According to the activist group’s Facebook page, one man remains in jail on a $50,000 bond.

[Image via Shutterstock//h/t NY Daily News]