Authorities Investigate Sunday Demonstrations that Ended with Violence, Gunshot

Authorities are probing the circumstances of the demonstration and counter protest that ended in violence and a gunshot Sunday evening outside the Westwood federal building.

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Three people were arrested after violence broke out Sunday, July 13, 2014 at a rally involving pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

    In the wake of a pro-Israel rally that ended with a gunshot and the arrest of four counter demonstrators, authorities are investigating the circumstances of both the alleged assaults and the shot fired by a federal officer.

    The four booked for assault with a deadly weapon were freed Monday morning after posting bail of $30,000 apiece.

    Violent Clash Between Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian Protesters in Westwood

    [LA] Violent Clash Between Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian Protesters in Westwood
    Tensions between Israel and Hamas are being felt in Los Angeles with a violent clash in Westwood that ended in gunfire Sunday. Patrick Healy reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. from Westwood Monday, July 14, 2014.

    Witnesses said the men used flag poles as sticks to strike others.

    As he walked out of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's West Hollywood station, one of the men insisted he and his colleagues had been unfairly targeted.

    "We did not assault nobody," Mohammed Said Elkhatib, 35, was heard to say on broadcast video.

    The others were identified as Hassan Mustapha Kreidieh, 41; Fadi Ali Obeidallah, 38; and Mostadafa Gamaleldin Hafez, 19.

    There was tension throughout much of the afternoon and into the early evening Sunday as demonstrators supporting Israel in its conflict with Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip rallied outside the Westwood Federal Building.

    Counter demonstrators gathered across Wilshire Blvd on the north side.

    On both sides, law enforcement, including Los Angeles police and officers of the Federal Protective Service, kept a visible presence.

    The situation remained in check until the disturbance that erupted after the arrival of a pickup truck with four men waving Palestinian flags on poles projecting out the side windows.

    "One of the passengers was reaching out the window, thrusting his flagpole menacingly at the crowd," according to Judy Friedman, who said she and her family had come in support of Israel and were in a car just ahead and could see what unfolded behind.

    By all accounts, a pro-Israel demonstrator grabbed one of the flags.

    Witness accounts differ on whether he then stomped on the flag, but consensus is the men came out of the truck and into the front of the crowd.

    "The guys who jumped out of the car then used their flag poles as sticks and proceeded to beat the officers who got in between them." said Friedman.

    The shot was fired after all four men were back in the truck.

    A Federal Protective Service officer "attempted to stop the four male suspects who were attempting to flee the scene in a vehicle, and discharged one round from his service weapon," according to a statement issued from Washington, DC by Jacqueline Yost, a department Spokeswoman.

    No one was struck by the round.

    Moments later, the truck pulled  over, and LAPD officers arrested the men.

    Law enforcement use of force guidelines generally discourage firing at a moving vehicle, absent compelling circumstances.

    The unidentified officer has made no public statement.

    He will be interviewed by the LA County Sheriff's Department, which is handling the investigation.

    The FPS  indicated it will do its own use of force review, along with another federal entity, the National Protection & Compliance Office--Office of Compliance and Security.

    The officer's decision to fire was questioned by some who had been on the counter demonstration side of Wilshire Boulevard.

    There were hundreds of people "within a few feet of (his) line of fire," said Aziz Ayazi, expressing concern that someone could have been wounded by a ricochet.

    "What happened yesterday never should have happened," said Amani Barakat, a mother of four who left the demonstration before the pickup truck arrived.  She also expressed concern that authorities had arrested only the four men in the truck, and not the unidentified person who grabbed the first flagpole. 

    On the right to assemble publicly to express opinions, those on both sides of the issue found common ground.

    "In a democracy, each party can demonstrate when they want. It's unfortunate when it becomes a violent incident," said David Siegel, Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles.

    He expressed support for how the Federal Protective Service handled the situation Sunday.

    But in hindsight, given the intensity of feelings, some questioned the risk of opposing rallies only feet apart.

    "I am not for having those counter protests, on a personal basis, if you ask me," said Barakat.

    "I don't think they're productive.  I don't think they're strategic."

    Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: iPhone/iPad App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts