Pro-Palestinian Groups Sued Over Violent Demonstration Outside LA Shul

LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Times/TNS/Hamodia) — A local Jewish man has filed a lawsuit against two groups that led a demonstration outside a Los Angeles shul last month that turned violent and garnered national condemnation against the demonstrators, including from President Biden and Mayor Karen Bass. Witnesses described the scene as a pogrom, in which Jews were targeted, assaulted, and harassed. Nazi salutes were made by masked protestors, and bear spray was reportedly sprayed at Jews too.

Mark Javich, attorney for plaintiff Ronen Helmann of Los Angeles, filed the lawsuit Sunday against Code Pink, a feminist antiwar organization, and the Palestinian Youth Movement, a group which supports the Hamas terror group and denies Israel’s right to exist.

The lawsuit alleges that the organizations targeted the Adas Torah synagogue in the Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood on June 23 to “cause chaos, violence, and block the entrance to the synagogue, all because of their hatred of Zionism [and] the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.”

The complaint also claims that the two groups conspired or failed to prevent the violation of Helmann’s 1st Amendment right to worship.

Representatives for Code Pink and the Palestinian Youth Movement did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

The groups have said that the protest was spurred by a real estate event at the shul, where organizers alleged that land in Gaza was being sold. Israelis and Jews do not own or sell land in Gaza, and no Jews have lived there since Israel left the strip in 2005. An advertisement for the event in the Jewish Journal said that information on “housing projects in all the best Anglo neighborhoods in Israel” would be provided.

President Joe Biden and California elected officials condemned the incident as antisemitic.

“I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles. Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic, and un-American,” Biden wrote on social media shortly after the incident. “Americans have a right to peaceful protest. But blocking access to a house of worship – and engaging in violence – is never acceptable.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote on social media that the violence was “appalling.”

“There is no excuse for targeting a house of worship. Such antisemitic hatred has no place in California,” he wrote.

“Today’s violence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood today was abhorrent, and blocking access to a place of worship is unacceptable,” L.A. Mayor Karen Bass wrote on social media.

According to an archive of the website for My Home in Israel, one of the companies listed on the advertisement, homes were listed for $435,000 to $4.1 million in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Efrat and Ariel.

The lawsuit also claims that Helmann approached the synagogue and was immediately surrounded by a group of demonstrators, some recording him with their cellphones, making antisemitic remarks including “slaughter the Jews,” “Leave the neighborhood, we are coming,” and called him a Nazi, a baby murderer and a colonizer.

Helmann saw masked demonstrators walking house to house, looking for Jewish doorposts before taking photos of the homes and cars associated with them.

The violence prompted the U.S. Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland to call for a federal inquiry into the demonstration.

Helmann is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.

“We must hold them accountable for violating laws that protect access to synagogues,” Javich said in an email Tuesday. “Singling out a local synagogue merely because they are holding an event related to Israel is unacceptable and must be met with an appropriate response.”

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