An attack on a group of Jewish men at a restaurant in the Beverly Grove area, which was being investigated by police Wednesday as a possible hate crime, drew condemnation from the mayor and from a Los Angeles city councilman who said the victims were Jewish diners targeted by a pro-Palestinian group.
The victims were confronted shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday outside Sushi Fumi in the 300 block of North La Cienega Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, which confirmed the incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Police said one minor injury was reported. No one was arrested in what Mayor Eric Garcetti characterized as an “organized, anti-semitic attack.”
“Jewish Angelenos, like all residents, should always feel safe in our city … L.A. is a city of belonging, not of hate. There is simply no place for antisemitism, discrimination or prejudice of any kind in Los Angeles. And we will never tolerate bigotry and violence in our communities,” he said in a Twitter post.
Councilman Paul Koretz said the restaurant incident was one of two attacks directed at Jewish victims over the course of 24 hours.
“Last night, members of a caravan of pro-Palestinian protesters targeted innocent Jewish diners in a vicious attack while they were sitting outside a sushi restaurant, and a separate attempt was made by two drivers to run over a Jewish man who had to flee for his life. Both incidents were captured on video. These were antisemitic hate crimes that are unconscionable,” Koretz said in a statement released late Wednesday morning.
“These violent acts will not go unchecked. We will do everything necessary to bring these criminals to justice and to restore order on our city streets. Late last night after being briefed at the Wilshire Division by LAPD, I visited the restaurant where the attack took place and met with a young man who witnessed the entire tragedy unfold,” he said. “I committed to him that we will work diligently to deploy more resources to the region and bring justice for the victims who were brutally beaten. I intend to keep my promise to that young man and to our entire community.
“We will never allow for anyone to strike fear into our hearts because we are Jews. We are not going to allow the violence in the Middle East to spill out onto the streets of Los Angeles. Everyone is entitled to express their opinion but never through violence. Pro-Palestinian protesters cannot be allowed to viciously assault random people on the street because they happen to look or be Jewish,” Koretz said.
According to CBSLA, cell phone video showed a group of men get out of a car and start to attack the diners while yelling racial slurs.
One of the diners, who is not Jewish, told CBSLA that a caravan waving pro-Palestinian flags approached and then began throwing bottles at him and the group he was dining with. The man said he is a photographer and the group was meeting at the restaurant to plan a wedding.
The man said he was physically attacked when he tried to defend the group. He said the attackers used anti-Jewish profanity. He also said he was pepper-sprayed during the attack and had to go to a hospital.
The attackers were described only as men wearing all black. The restaurant apparently was not damaged, police said.
Meanwhile, police are reviewing security video recorded Monday night that appears to show an Orthodox Jewish man being chased by a caravan of people waving Palestinian flags near Rosewood and La Brea avenues, CBSLA reported. The man escaped and was not hurt.
The incidents occurred in the wake of an escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At least 200 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombing of Gaza, while Hamas rocket attacks have killed at least 12 Israelis.
Earlier Tuesday, a large crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the Israeli consulate in West Los Angeles. The rally was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement. Over the weekend, thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied in Westwood calling for an end to the violence.
The local office of the Council on American Islamic Relations issued the following statement Wednesday: “As a civil rights and advocacy organization, we support everyone’s right to free speech, the right to assemble and rally in support of their respective political views.
“However, despite heightened tensions in Palestine and Israel, it is never acceptable for that conflict to spill over into our streets and cities. Violence and intimidation should be condemned, investigated, and if warranted, prosecuted.”
The Anti-Defamation League announced a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the assault on the diners.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the attack.
“Los Angeles is the second city for almost every national and ethnic group in the world. That means wherever there is a flashpoint around the world someone here feels it intensely. That is doubly true about the Gaza War for both Jews and Palestinians,” said rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean and director of global social action.
“…No one in Williamsburg (NY), Golders Green (London), or Los Angeles started this conflict and no one has the power to impact on events in the Holy Land, but that hasn’t stopped the hate threats and violence from proliferating in too many places. We need our elected officials, law enforcement, and the media to give these concerns serious attention,” Cooper concluded.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Security Initiative scheduled a briefing Thursday morning with local and national political and law enforcement officials to “address these pressing and deeply concerning issues,” the group said in a letter to constituents Wednesday.
“CSI is reaching out to all our partners across the community to assure them that our Federation will do everything to protect their institutions and our Jewish community.”