Mayor Bass vows more security, proactive policing in response to clash at Synagogue

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

LOS ANGELES – One day after a violent clash between Palestinian and Israeli supporters outside a synagogue in the Pico-Robertson district, Mayor Karen Bass Monday outlined steps being taken in hopes of preventing any re-occurrences, including more funding for security at houses of worship and expanded partnerships between police and Jewish public safety organizations.

The Los Angeles Police Department stepped up its presence outside synagogues and other houses of worship Monday in response to the clash, which occurred around 10:50 a.m. Sunday in front of the Adas Torah synagogue at 9040 W. Pico Blvd., one block east of Doheny Drive. Pro-Palestine protesters amassed outside the facility, and they were met with counter-demonstrators, some carrying Israeli flags, LAPD Officer Tony Im told City News Service.

Local and state leaders, and even President Joe Biden, all condemned the ensuing clash as blatant anti-Semitism, although pro-Palestinians said the gathering was held in response to a real estate event being held at the synagogue that included “representatives of housing projects in all the best Anglo neighborhoods in Israel,” according to an advertisement for the event.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Violence erupts as protesters clash outside West LA synagogue

On social media, pro-Palestinian groups blasted the event, calling it “a blatant example of land theft.”

While investigations continued, Bass met with leaders of various Jewish community groups Monday, along with City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky and interim LAPD Chief Dominic Choi. At an afternoon news conference, Bass called Sunday’s violence “abhorrent,” calling the actions of protesters who blocked access to a synagogue “absolutely unacceptable.”

“This violence was designed to stoke fear,” Bass said. “It was designed to divide. But hear me loud and clear — it will fail.”

Bass outlined a series of steps being pursued by the city in response to the clash.

“We will be working to immediately convene leaders of houses of worship and cultural centers to dsicss how to protect sacred spaces,” Bass said. “… LAPD will enhance their partnerships with Jewish public safety organizations to continually review evolving tactics and threats to the community and to ensure that we are not just responding, but taking proactive actions to prevent these instances from happening in the first place.”

She said the city is working with state leaders to ensure the provision of $40 million in grant funding to support security measures locally, and Yaroslavsky is expected to introduce a motion during Tuesday’s City Council meeting seeking immediate local funding to boost security while the state money is pending.

Bass also said the city attorney will be looking at several issues that “we need to examine,” such as requiring permits for such organized protests and “the idea of people wearing masks at protests,” a clear reference to many participants Sunday who had their faces covered to conceal their identities.

“As mayor, my number one job is to keep people safe and I want to assure Angelenos that we will continue our efforts to make sure that you not just feel safe but you actually are safe, especially in places of worship,” Bass said.

In a statement Monday, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said “elected officials and the mainstream media have politicized this incident as religious discrimination as opposed to a human rights issue.” He also called for an investigation into the violence, but condemned the real estate event at the synagogue Sunday as “promoting the sale of land located in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.”

“The demonstration in front of the Adas Torah synagogue over the weekend was in response to the blatant violations of both international law and human rights from agencies that seek to make a profit selling brutally stolen Palestinian land as the Israeli government continues its eight-month-long genocidal campaign and ethnic cleansing in Gaza,” Ayloush said in a statement. “The decision by Shaarey Zedek and Adas Torah synagogues to host events promoting racially segregated settlements, where only Jewish people are allowed to live, on illegally occupied Palestinian land is deplorable and antithetical to the morals that faith institutions should uphold.

“… We call on political leaders to condemn the organizations involved in the potentially illegal sale of Palestinian land and the counter- protesters who commit violence against anti-genocide protesters with the same fervor used for rightfully condemning antisemitism.”

On social media, pro-Palestine groups also pointed to the real estate event as the impetus for the protest.

“Racist settler expansionists are not welcome in Los Angeles,” the Palestinian Youth Movement posted on Instagram, calling the land sale an “effort to further occupy Palestine.”

Several other groups, including USC pro-Palestine organizations, posted images saying that protesters went to the synagogue to “push back against the unjust sale of occupied land to a depraved Euro-American settler market.”

“We refuse to allow land theft and settler expansionists (to) operate in our backyard. Confront Zionism and smash settler colonialism,” according to the posts. “No peace on stolen land, from the belly of the beast to Palestine.”

President Joe Biden was among those on Monday condemning the violence outside the synagogue.

“I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles,” 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.”

Heated verbal confrontations grew physical shortly after the two factions gathered Sunday, with several scuffles occurring in streets throughout what Sam Yebri, who lost to 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, 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.”

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.

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,” Illulian said. “Nobody would accept this. But here, when it comes to Jews and Israel, everything is kosher, everything is OK.”

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.

“It is a case study in gaslighting to describe this as `peaceful protest,’ Greenblatt wrote. “`Peaceful protesters’ don’t converge on a Jewish neighborhood, conceal their identities, bring weapons, openly call for violence, antagonize and then attack residents with rage.

“Enough is enough. It is time for people of all persuasions and politics to speak out against this divisive, ugly hate. It is time for elected officials to recognize that these acts aren’t courageous, they are criminal. It is time for authorities to intervene before more people get hurt and then actually killed.

“Arrests, prosecutions, sentences — it’s time.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.