Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered Friday afternoon at Holmby Park — across the street from where a star-studded fundraiser supporting President Joe Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign was planned — to protest the U.S. government’s support of Israel amid the Jewish state’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.
The president traveled to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon after making a stop in Las Vegas to attend multiple fundraising events in support of his bid for a second term.
The Friday fundraiser in West Los Angeles was hosted by major celebrities, including Steven Spielberg and Shonda Rhimes. Rock star Lenny Kravitz was scheduled to perform at the event, which was co-hosted by former L.A. mayoral candidate and billionaire Rick Caruso and former Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
The protest, meanwhile, took place directly across the street from the fundraiser.
By mid-afternoon Friday, law enforcement had cordoned off a large portion of the park’s open space – restricting access to the side of the street where Biden’s event was expected to get underway – before the majority of protesters arrived.
Hundreds of folks – donning keffiyahs, raising Palestinian flags, and shouting chants like “long live Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – had gathered at the park by about 3:30 p.m., hours ahead of Biden’s scheduled arrival.
“We are here to disrupt a fundraiser for a war criminal who has the blood of thousands and thousands of people on his hands,” one organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement told the crowd on Friday afternoon.
The demonstration was put on by the Palestinian Youth Movement, an organization comprising Palestinians and Arabs living in the U.S. and Canada, according to its website.
Other activist groups, including Code Pink and and the Los Angeles chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, also planned to participate in the demonstration.
This protest is far from the first to publicly oppose the Biden Administration’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war.
Earlier this week, Palestinian supporters also protested the president’s arrival and attendance at a similar high-society fundraiser — hosted by singer-songwriter James Taylor — in Boston, the Boston Globe reported.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has repeatedly expressed its support for Israel — an unambiguous ally of the U.S. since its creation in 1948, a status quo no president has ever uset — but has said it his concerned about the burgeoning humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Biden, in fact, spoke with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday morning, Dec. 7, to discuss the war in Gaza.
“The President expressed his deep concern for the hostages that remain in Gaza,” according to a White House briefing on the conversation. “The President underscored the importance of the continuous and sustained flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”
It’s also nowhere near the first protest to erupt in Southern California over the ongoing conflict, with dozens of other rallies, both Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel in nature, taking place since Hamas launched a devastating attack on civilians in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
That attack killed about 1,200 Israelis, with Hamas also taking more than 240 hostages. Israel responded with an intense military assault on Gaza.
The war resumed earlier this week after the end of a dayslong truce that resulted in Hamas, which both the U.S. and Israel consider a terrorist group, freeing more than 100 hostages.
The United Nations has said 1.87 million Gazans — more than 80% of the territory’s population — have been driven from their homes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Israel has said its mission is to eradicate Hamas, with the country’s supporters in the U.S. and elsewhere saying the country has a right to defend itself. Hamas leadership, which has a governmental stranglehold on Gaza, has repeatedly said it wants to destroy Israel.
But Pro-Palestinian groups have blamed Israel for creating conditions in Gaza that some have described as an open-air prison; Israel has operated an air, land and sea blockade of Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory in the mid-2000s. Pro-Palestinian advocates, who want Israel to implement a long-term cease-fire, have also said the current military onslaught against Hamas has caused inhumane carnage and suffering in Gaza.
The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza said earlier this week that the death toll in the territory has since surpassed 16,200, with more than 42,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but said 70% of the dead were women and children.
Israel, for its part, believes that it has killed two Palestinian civilians for every Hamas terrorist in its intense campaign to eliminate the armed group from the Gaza Strip, a ratio an IDF spokesperson described on Monday as “tremendously positive.”
Jodie Evans, cofounder of the L.A.-based nonprofit Code Pink, said Friday’s demonstration against the Biden administration is aimed at calling attention to the dissonance between the president’s lavish fundraising events and the horror of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“Biden is coming to Los Angeles to raise money from a Hollywood that is silencing voices that are pro-Palestinian,” Evans said in an interview, further arguing that Biden’s Hollywood fundraiser is “insensitive” and “inhumane.”
The Friday protest is part of an international call to action dubbed “Shut It Down For Palestine” — which organizes protests and other demonstrations to advocate for “for an immediate cease-fire, cutting all aid to Israel and lifting the siege on Gaza,” according to its website.
These weekly protests, Evans said, are a means of making change — but also a way for folks to deal with grief.
“People want this madness to end,” she said. “We nourish each other and we help each other to feel human, to feel hope and to not succumb to the overwhelming nature of what is happening.”
The Los Angeles Police Department, meanwhile, said in a Friday post on social media that it is aware of “First Amendment events” in the area scheduled for the weekend and was coordinating with the U.S. Secret Service to “ensure the highest level of public safety.”
“The Department will continue to work with any protest organizers to facilitate lawful demonstrations while protecting the safety of all involved including surrounding communities,” the LAPD said before the Friday afternoon protest. “Violence of any kind will not be tolerated.”
Staff writer Victoria Ivie, the Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register