Los Angeles Officials to Hold Community Meeting After Violent Clashes Outside Synagogue

The mayor announced plans for a Monday meeting with the interim Los Angeles Police Department Chief and others following the Palestinian-Israeli protests.
Los Angeles Officials to Hold Community Meeting After Violent Clashes Outside Synagogue
Supporters of Israel clash with pro-Palestinian protesters blocking access to the Adas Torah Orthodox Jewish synagogue, in Los Angeles on June 23, 2024. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)
City News Service

LOS ANGELES—Mayor Karen Bass on June 23 announced plans for a Monday meeting with interim Los Angeles Police Department Chief Dominic Choi to “further discuss the safety of Angelenos” following violent clashes between Palestinian and Israeli supporters in the Pico-Robertson district.

“Today’s violence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood was abhorrent, and blocking access to a place of worship is unacceptable,” Ms. Bass said in a statement released Sunday night. “I’ve called on LAPD to provide additional patrols in the Pico-Robertson community as well as outside of houses of worship throughout the city. I'll be meeting with [interim] Chief Choi tomorrow to further discuss the safety of Angelenos.

“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. I will be joining Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation Los Angeles Rabbi Noah Farkas and other law enforcement and faith leaders in a community meeting as we talk about steps forward, together.”

President Joe Biden on Monday added to the condemnations of pro-Palestine protesters blocking the entrance to Adas Torah synagogue.

“I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles,” President Biden wrote on social media. “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 confrontation began at 10:52 a.m. Sunday, when pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had gathered in front of the Adas Torah synagogue at 9040 W. Pico Blvd., one block east of Doheny Drive, were met with counter-demonstrators, some carrying Israeli flags, LAPD Officer Tony Im told City News Service.

Heated verbal confrontations grew physical shortly thereafter, with several scuffles occurring in streets throughout what Sam Yebri, who lost to Ms. Yaroslavsky in the 2022 race for the Fifth District council seat, called “America’s most heavily Jewish neighborhood outside of New York.”

Video from the scene showed punches being thrown, people wrestled to the ground and kicked, chemical agents being sprayed and demonstrators people the handles of protest signs as weapons. Police responded in riot gear.

One person was arrested for carrying a “spiked flag,” a prohibited item at a public demonstration, Mr. Im told City News Service.

According to an LAPD statement released on Monday morning, the person “was cited at West Los Angeles station and released,”

“The Los Angeles Police Department will be investigating ... two reported batteries,” the LAPD statement said. “We will always protect the First Amendment rights of those wanting to protest. Violence and crime however, will not be tolerated. Additional patrols will be conducted around sensitive religious sites, to ensure the safety of all. If you have information relating to these crimes, please contact West Los Angeles Station.”

Video appeared to show at least two pro-Palestinian demonstrators taken from an SUV and detained at a gas station at Pico Boulevard at Doheny Drive with an LAPD officer removing a small child from the back seat.

Mr. Im said there were no immediate reports of any injuries.

Nafoli Sherman, an Israeli supporter whose T-shirt was stained with blood told reporters, “I just wanted to see what happened there. I just wanted to see what was going on. As soon as I came, one person just boom, straight to my nose,” Mr. Sherman said, demonstrating a punch.

“I fell to the floor. I got hit many times on my head. I got kicked over here,” Mr. Sherman said.

The pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups briefly marched through adjacent Beverly Hills, coming north on Almont Drive from Pico Boulevard, then west on Olympic Boulevard for two blocks to Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills Police Department Lt. Andrew Myers told City News Service on Monday.

Beverly Hills Councilman John Mirisch said in a social media post after “having heard helicopters and chanting from my home, I walked down to Pico. By the time I got there, LAPD had cordoned off the synagogue; Magen Am and Shmira, volunteer Jewish safety organizations, were working to protect the neighborhood.”

“Jew-hatred has infected our world; elected officials and governments are either silent or making excuses or worse,” Mr. Mirisch said. “Yet again, we see that we really only can count upon ourselves. It’s incumbent upon all of us to speak up, to work with our communities.”

Ms. Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, said in a statement released Sunday night, “The antisemitic violence that broke out this afternoon in Pico-Robertson would have been completely unacceptable anywhere in Los Angeles, but that it was planned and carried out in front of a synagogue in the heart of LA’s Jewish community should be deeply concerning to us all.

“Everyone has the right to protest, and everyone also has the right to be safe from fear and violence. We deserve answers for how this situation escalated.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in a post on social media that “the violent clashes outside the Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles are appalling. There is no excuse for targeting a house of worship. Such antisemitic hatred has no place in California.”

Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, the founder of the Beverly Hills-based JEM Community Center which provides sports, recreational, and educational activities for youths, told KCAL from the scene that the protest, “doesn’t belong here.”

“I don’t think the Jewish people would go in front of a mosque and the Christian people would go in front of a mosque to do such a thing,” Mr. Illulian said. “Nobody would accept this.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of Anti-Defamation League, which describes its goals as stopping “the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” posted on social media Monday. “The antisemitic violence that started in front of an Orthodox synagogue and spilled over into the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles marks a deeply dangerous new low.”

Sergio Ramos, an investigative reporter for the news organization CalMatters, posted on social media that a demonstrator stole his cellphone, “to stop me from filming.”

“I told him I was press and showed him my press creds, he told me, ‘You shouldn’t be there,’ and took my phone,” Mr. Ramos wrote.

Mr. Ramos also wrote, “Earlier I was filming a pro-Israeli protestor chase and beat a pro-Palestinian protestor in the streets when a man drove his truck through at high speed, almost ramming people. At that moment, a pro-Israeli demonstrator knocked my phone out of my hands to stop me from filming it.”

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