LOS ANGELES (AP) — A brawl involving pro-Palestinians who attacked Jewish diners at a Los Angeles restaurant will be investigated as a hate crime, the city’s mayor said.
Witnesses said members of a car caravan flying Palestinian flags attacked outdoor diners just before 10 p.m. Tuesday at a sushi restaurant in the Beverly Grove area as violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip intensified.
The Los Angeles Times said a witness, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said some people from the caravan threw bottles and chanted “death to Jews” and “free Palestine.”
“Somebody in one of the cars driving by started throwing glass bottles or glass cups at the tables and they shattered everywhere,” a woman diner, who didn’t want to be identified, told KCBS-TV.
Several cars stopped and men got out, began running toward the tables and began asking “Who’s Jewish?” the woman said.
KTLA-TV reported that a witness, who was not identified, said fighting erupted when two men replied they were.
Video showed a man being punched on a sidewalk.
The man, who wished to be identified only as M, told KABC-TV that he was helping plan an upcoming wedding with four Jewish friends when the car caravan rolled up.
Video showed some men dressed in black getting out of a car and pushing M’s friend to the ground. M said grabbed a metal stanchion. Video showed him swinging it at attackers.
M said he grabbed it to scare the men.
“There were many girls behind us. I was scared that they would attack everybody,” he said.
M was followed to his car, punched and pepper sprayed, and was treated at a hospital, he said.
Restaurant staff rushed patrons inside, locked the doors and called police.
No arrests were immediately made.
Police said five victims were punched or hurt by broken glass, but nobody was seriously injured. At least three suspects were being sought.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, in tweets posted Wednesday afternoon, said the LAPD is looking into the assault as a hate crime and condemned what he called an “organized, anti-Semitic attack.”
“Jewish Angelenos, like all residents, should always feel safe in our city,” he posted. “L.A. is a city of belonging, not of hate.”
A weekend protest in West Los Angeles in support of Palestinians drew thousands of peaceful protesters. An earlier Tuesday demonstration outside the Israeli consulate also was peaceful and an organizer, Amani Barakat, told KCBS-TV that he wouldn’t condone violence.
“We’ve organized many protests, Saturday’s protest we had more than 20,000 people that showed up and not one single incident,” Barakat said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations for Greater Los Angeles condemned the incident.
“As a civil rights and advocacy organization, we support everyone’s right to free speech, the right to assemble and rally in support of their respective political views,” Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said in a statement. “However, despite heightened tensions in Palestine and Israel, it is never acceptable for that conflict to spill over into our streets and cities. Violence and intimidation should be condemned, investigated, and if warranted, prosecuted.”