Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

A violent clash Sunday between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and supporters of Israel engaged outside a Los Angeles synagogue was condemned by President Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Karen Bass.

Law enforcement sources said more than 150 people converged on the temple, and it took time for the Los Angeles Police Department to get enough personnel to the scene. The LAPD eventually deployed 60 officers and got the protesters and counterprotesters to clear the area, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

There was one arrest of a pro-Israel demonstrator who was carrying a sharp pole — a violation of the law — according to the sources, who added that there were numerous clashes between the pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel forces who arrived later.

Newsom said in a post on X: “There is no excuse for targeting a house of worship. Such antisemitic hatred has no place in California.”

Bass called the violence “abhorrent,” adding that “blocking access to a place of worship is unacceptable.”

“I want to be clear that Los Angeles will not be a harbor for antisemitism and violence. Those responsible for either will be found and held accountable,” she said.

President Biden also took issue with the protest tactics.

“Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic, and un-American. Americans have a right to peaceful protest. But blocking access to a house of worship — and engaging in violence — is never acceptable,” the president said in a statement.

Pro-Palestinian activists began gathering in front of the Adas Torah synagogue in the 9000 block of West Pico Boulevard shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday, LAPD Officer Tony Im said. They were quickly met with counterdemonstrators, many of them carrying Israeli flags.

They arrived apparently in response to a real estate event that promised to provide the latest information on “housing projects in all the best Anglo neighborhoods in Israel,” according to an advertisement that appeared in the June 21 issue of the Jewish Journal.

Protest flyers posted on social media said, “Our Land Is Not For Sale” and condemned the “land theft,” according to an Instagram post from the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

The law enforcement sources said a similar protest the day before at a North Hollywood synagogue brought only 25 protesters. A handful of officers were enough to handle that crowd, they said.

But Sunday’s protest was much bigger.

Video posted on social media showed fistfights breaking out among protesters, some of whom wielded sticks and handles from signs as police in riot gear stood nearby. Numerous scuffles occurred along the street, with some protesters hurling obscenities as they wrestled one another to the ground.

Im said there were no immediate reports of injuries.

People in checkered headscarves waving white-red-and-green flags

Pro-Palestinian protesters chant near Adas Torah synagogue on West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles on June 23, 2024.

(Zoë Cranfill / Los Angeles Times)

Video appeared to show at least two pro-Palestinian demonstrators taken from an SUV and detained near Pico Boulevard and Wetherly Drive, with an LAPD officer removing a small child from the back seat of the vehicle.

Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, founder of the JEM Community Center in Beverly Hills, told KCAL News that the protest “doesn’t belong” in front of a synagogue. “I don’t think the Jewish would go in front of a mosque or the Christian people would go in front of a mosque to do such a thing.”

The ongoing war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, has spurred numerous protests across the U.S. between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and Israel supporters.

Although the U.S. has staunchly supported Israel’s aims of freeing hostages taken into Gaza and defeating the militant group Hamas, it has grown increasingly concerned over the rising Palestinian death toll and the humanitarian crisis created by the war.

Bass said in her statement late Sunday that she would be meeting with Dominic Choi, interim LAPD chief, to discuss security measures and other issues related to the violence.

She also said she would meet with officials and faith leaders later this week.

Other local officials also condemned the violence.

“Under no circumstances is marching on the most densely populated Jewish community in Los Angeles & blocking entrance to a synagogue felt as anything other than an act of antisemitic violence. Nobody should ever be unsafe gathering in a house of worship,” L.A. assemblyman Isaac G. Bryan said on X.

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