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Fights break out between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel demonstrators outside Los Angeles synagogue, videos show


By Cindy Von Quednow, Elizabeth Wolfe and Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) — A pro-Palestinian protest held outside a Los Angeles synagogue devolved into chaotic street violence Sunday after pro-Israel counter-protesters arrived, videos show, in an incident that several officials criticized as antisemitic.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it responded to two protests Sunday in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Pico Robertson, just south of Beverly Hills. Videos taken at the scene show police pushing pro-Palestinian protesters away from the entrance of the Adas Torah temple, an Orthodox synagogue.

Chants of “Free, free Palestine – from the river to the sea,” and “long live intifada,” could be heard from among the pro-Palestinian protesters. Participants blocked traffic, and video from the scene shows multiple altercations broke out in the middle of the street and on sidewalks.

Protests around the Israel-Gaza war have become common across the US since October, but local and state officials sharply criticized Sunday’s event for its violence and for taking place at a Jewish institution.

“(Sunday’s) violence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood today was abhorrent, and blocking access to a place of worship is unacceptable,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement.

“The violent clashes outside the Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles are appalling,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on X. “There is no excuse for targeting a house of worship. Such antisemitic hatred has no place in California.”

“Targeting a synagogue, or targeting the members of a synagogue, is anti-Semitic,” US Rep. Ted Lieu of California said on X. “I strongly condemn the Pro-Palestinian demonstrators who engaged in anti-Semitism by targeting Adas Torah Synagogue and/or its congregants. Anyone who engaged in violence should be prosecuted.”

Both Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups say the war has led to skyrocketing hate crimes and bias incidents. The Anti-Defamation League reports that antisemitic incidents were up 140% in 2023 compared to the prior year. And the Council on American-Islamic Relations said last year marked the highest number of anti-Muslim bias reports it has received in nearly three decades.

It’s unclear how the chaos Sunday escalated, but videos shared on social media shows both groups taunting, shoving and grabbing each other outside the synagogue. The groups of demonstrators eventually began flowing down nearby streets, where more scuffles broke out, the videos show.

In one video, two men appear to be wrestling on the ground as others kick at them. Later, one of the men – holding an Israeli flag – appears to have a bloodied face and mouth.

Additional video showed an egg thrown at a pro-Palestinian activist and a man wearing a keffiyah, a traditional Palestinian scarf, chased and punched on the ground by a man wearing a Jewish yarmulke or kippah.

During many of the altercations, bystanders worked to pull and hold people apart.

Los Angeles police began monitoring the situation around 10:30 a.m., officer Tony Im told CNN. The crowd was ordered to disperse at some point, Im said, though no exact time was provided. He added that the situation appeared “pretty calm” hours later, but that police were closely monitoring the area.

Officers arrested a person with a spiked flag, the police department told CNN. They were issued a citation for possessing a prohibited item during a protest and released from custody.

‘It’s not meant to be intimidating’

One man wearing a red keffiyah over his face spoke to CNN affiliate KCAL as a counter-protester badgered him to “show your face.”

“It’s not meant to be intimidating. Yeah, disruptive, for sure,” the keffiyah-wearing man said.

“This is intimidating,” he added, pointing at the counter-protester. “We didn’t get in anyone’s faces.”

However, local resident Josh Golcheh disagreed. “They’ve come to our home. They come and are attacking us. They bear-sprayed my friend who’s standing right over here,” he told KCAL. He said people he knew had been attacked. “It’s just terrible.”

Rabbi Hertzel Illulian of the nearby JEM Community Center in Beverly Hills told KCAL violence “doesn’t belong here” and lamented what he saw as a double standard.

“I don’t think the Jewish people would go in front of a mosque or the Christian people would go in front of a mosque to do such a thing,” he said. “Nobody would accept this, but here, when it comes to Jews and Israel, everything is kosher, everything is okay.”

Mayor Bass said she called on the LAPD to provide more patrols in the community and at houses of worship in the city.

“I want to be clear that Los Angeles will not be a harbor for antisemitism and violence,” she said. “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.”

In a statement to CNN, the Jewish Federation Los Angeles said they are working to ensure their community is safe.

“Our Community Security Initiative (CSI) are monitoring the situation and working with our local law enforcement partners to make sure our community are kept safe. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates as needed,” the statement read.

CNN’s Amanda Jackson and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.

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