February 17, 2019

Pro-Palestinian protest in Westwood draws thousands, causes Wilshire to shut down

[UPDATE – Aug. 4] Law enforcement made one arrest in connection with “sexual battery,” according to LAPD-West L.A. Division Officer Hornback. No further details were available.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department estimated 1,500 people turned out to the event.

[Aug. 2] On Saturday afternoon, thousands demonstrated on behalf of the Palestinians outside the Wilshire Federal Building.

“It’s almost not even a political conflict anymore, it’s a humanitarian conflict. If you’re a human you should care about this. You should come out, you should stand in solidarity,” 25-year-old UC Riverside graduate student Gus Hussein, who wore a kafia around his body on Saturday, told the Journal. Hussein was among those who participated in a pro-Palestinian protest that marched more than three miles, from the Wilshire Federal Building to the nearby Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles headquarters, and back again. “When genocide is being committed, when children are being killed, when civilian lives are lost, this is a humanitarian issue.”

He was also one of many who voiced his or her opposition to the Israelis on Saturday.

“Let the children of the Palestinians live like children of the rest of the world. Why do they have to pay the price for somebody like Netanyahu and the American administration who is supporting Israeli 100-percent,” Rick Ajjawi, 55, a Palestinian who was born in Lebanon and who works as an engineer in Los Angeles, said in an interview, waving a Palestinian flag as he marched on Wilshire boulevard.

They were not alone in these feelings. Everywhere one looked on Saturday afternoon were people denouncing Israel. Signs read, “Zionists, Get out of Gaza Now!” and “Israel is Mass Murdering Children.”

A few in attendance disagreed with the protestors' sentiments. Israel activist Steve Goldberg, who recently lost his bid for the presidency of the Zionist Organization of America, found trouble when he showed up at today’s rally with an Israeli flag, which angered many of the pro-Palestinian protestors. A shouting match between him and several others ensued.

The rally, which was organized by ANSWER Los Angeles, underscored Angelenos’ passion about events in Gaza, where an offensive by Israel, Operation Protective Edge, has led to more than 1,700 Palestinian civilian and 64 Israeli soldier deaths.

The event was one of several rallies that have taken place locally since July 8, when Israel launched its military engagement into Gaza, but it was also one of the most dramatic.

Around 3 p.m., two hours after the protest began and after the police closed down Wilshire boulevard, a mass of Palestinian flag-waving demonstrators marched underneath the 405-freeway underpass at Sepulveda boulevard, their chants echoing against the cement walls of the freeway underpass.

Police also closed down a nearby freeway off-ramp. “I’m not too upset…that’s like some stuff you see in the movies,” Drew Padderson, who was among the drivers affected by the closure and who exited his vehicle to watch the sea of protestors marching westbound on Wilshire toward the Israeli consulate, said. 

Pro-Israel demonstrators gathered in smaller numbers outside the Wilshire Federal Building, the lower turnout due to the fact that it was Shabbat perhaps. They, also, walked from the Federal Building to the consulate.

Pro-Israel demonstrator Kathrin Magen told the Journal that her issue is with Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, not with the Palestinians.

“We have no problems with the Palestinians. It’s the terror organizations [like Hamas that we don't like],” she said. “The existence of Israel is very important. It is the only democracy in the Middle East and a very strong ally to the U.S.”

Protestors began dispersing around 5 p.m.