President Joe Biden 'appalled' by violence during pro-Palestinian protest at Los Angeles synagogue

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Opponents of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza staged a protest that evolved into brawling and one arrest outside a Los Angeles synagogue over the weekend in violence condemned on Monday by President Joe Biden and the city's mayor, who called for more police patrols.

Fighting between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and counterprotesters erupted Sunday outside the Adas Torah synagogue in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood and police were called in to break it up.

“I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles,” Biden said in post on social media site X. “Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic, and un-American.”

At a Monday news conference, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said the violence was “abhorrent” and that blocking access to a place of worship was unacceptable.

"This violence was designed to stoke fear, it was designed to divide, but hear me loud and clear, it will fail," Bass said.

The mayor said she would ask the city attorney's office to review the permitting process for protests and look into a possible ban on wearing masks at demonstrations.

One person was arrested but the incident was still under investigation, police said.

Interim Chief Dominic Choi said the Los Angeles Police Department on Monday began providing additional patrols in Pico-Robertson and outside houses of worship citywide. The department will work with community leaders to protect neighborhoods and provide a more “robust” tactical response if future demonstrations spiral into violence, Choi said.

Karen Abital, a pro-Israel demonstrator who was at Sunday's melee, said it appeared that some people showed up to the synagogue with the intention of starting trouble.

“People got aggressive and just started pushing. And someone got punched and fell on the floor,” Abital said. “That's when it got violent very quickly.”

Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents the area, called the violence antisemitic and said it was particularly concerning that it happened “in front of a synagogue in the heart of LA's Jewish community.”

“Everyone has the right to protest, and everyone also has the right to be safe from fear and violence,” Yaroslavsky said.

The Israel-Hamas war erupted in response to the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas-led militants who killed 1,200 people and took 250 people hostage in southern Israel. The war has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. It has sparked a humanitarian crisis and displaced most of the territory’s 2.3 million population.

The Associated Press