LAPD Chief Promises to Work With Community on Safety Concerns After Clashes at Synagogue

LAPD Chief Promises to Work With Community on Safety Concerns After Clashes at Synagogue

A man is arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers as Israel supporters clash with pro-Palestinian protesters blocking access to the Adas Torah Orthodox Jewish synagogue, in Los Angeles, June 23, 2024. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)

City News Service
City News Service

6/25/2024

Updated: 6/25/2024

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LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles Police Department Interim Chief Dominic Choi reiterated June 25 the agency is working actively to alleviate safety concerns in the Jewish community in the wake of a weekend clash with pro-Palestinian protesters outside a synagogue in the Pico-Robertson district.
Mr. Choi told the Police Commission during its Tuesday meeting that the department is working to establish relationships and build trust with “civilian security forces” and leaders within the Jewish community. He said the department wants to work with the community to discuss ways of handling incidents at synagogues “to have better outcomes for everybody.”
“This is not about arresting and prosecuting,” he said. “This is about having better outcomes where we have an understanding of people’s backgrounds and histories on both sides of these arguments and having an appropriate response to it.”
He said the ultimate goal is to have open lines of communication to provide people with a sense of safety and security.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help them overcome or address the fear that they have in their communities, and to establish individual points of contact or communication so they can reach out to their senior lead officers,” Mr. Choi said. “It’s not just about calling the police station ... front desk, but it’s about calling somebody that they have a relationship within the department, and that will help reduce the fear of crime.”
Mr. Choi’s comments came two days after a violent Sunday morning clash between Palestinian and Israeli supporters outside the Adas Torah synagogue at 9040 W. Pico Blvd., one block east of Doheny Drive.
Local elected officials and Jewish community groups called the gathering of pro-Palestine protesters in a historically Jewish neighborhood an act of hate and anti-Semitism. But pro-Palestinian groups said the action was held in response to a real estate event being held at the synagogue Sunday morning that they claimed involved marketing “stolen Palestinian land.”
The dueling factions engaged in verbal confrontations that eventually became physical. Video from the scene showed punches being thrown, people wrestled to the ground and kicked, chemical agents being sprayed, and demonstrators using 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, LAPD Officer Tony 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.”
Although no injuries were officially reported, local community leaders said multiple people wound up nursing injuries from the clash.
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)

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)

Interim Los Angeles Police Department Chief Dominic Choi speaks at LAPD Headquarters in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 28, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Interim Los Angeles Police Department Chief Dominic Choi speaks at LAPD Headquarters in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 28, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Asked by Police Commissioner Rasha Shields if police make an effort to go in and arrest people who engage in violence during protests, Mr. Choi said that is a tactical decision based on circumstance.
“I will tell you that tactically, what we found is that if we try to interject ourselves during an active skirmish line, or active protests where violence is occurring, we’ve found that it actually exacerbates the situation and makes them worse, because to try and take one person out of a group is very challenging,” Mr. Choi said.
“I’m not saying that we haven’t done it before and we won’t do it again, but the tactics will dictate when we do that. I will tell you that there are cameras and video equipment at all of these protests, as you see on social media, and everyone has their own side, and we’re reviewing all of those things. In this particular sense that you’re referring to, we are working with our federal partners in identifying those ... particular behaviors or those actions, and when we can identify somebody, we will take action.”
Mayor Karen Bass on Monday outlined steps being taken to prevent any recurrences of such clashes—including more funding for security at houses of worship and expanded partnerships between police and Jewish public-safety organizations.
Ms. Bass called Sunday’s violence “abhorrent,” saying the actions of protesters who blocked access to a synagogue “absolutely unacceptable.”
“This violence was designed to stoke fear,” Ms. Bass said. “It was designed to divide. But hear me loud and clear—it will fail.”
Ms. 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 discuss how to protect sacred spaces,” Ms. 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 Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky introduced a motion during Tuesday’s City Council meeting seeking immediate local funding to boost security while the state money is pending. The city will also look at ways it could be reimbursed for expenses incurred prior to the availability of those grants.
Pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters face each other outside the Adas Torah Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles, June 23, 2024. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)

Pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters face each other outside the Adas Torah Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles, June 23, 2024. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)

The motion, co-presented by Councilman Bob Blumenfield and seconded by Councilwoman Traci Park, is expected to be heard by the council’s Public Safety Committee, and Budget, Finance and Innovation Committee.
“We must act immediately to expand and expedite funding for security services to ensure that all our community members feel safe and protected,” Ms. Yaroslavsky said in a statement. “This motion is a critical step toward achieving that goal.”
Ms. 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.
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.”
“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,” he said.
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.”
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,” 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.”
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