LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of demonstrators rallying in solidarity with Palestinians gathered Friday outside a Westwood fundraiser for President Biden — a planned protest that drew an ominous warning from the Los Angeles Police Department that “violence of any kind will not be tolerated.”
The LAPD said in a post on the social media platform X that it was “aware of possible 1st Amendment activity” and was working with the Secret Service to deploy additional officers and other resources to “ensure the highest level of public safety.”
“The Los Angeles Police Department is asking that all individuals and groups involved in protest or counter-protest activities not allow individuals who express the intent to commit violence or property [damage] to compromise the otherwise lawful demonstration,” the post said.
A spokesperson for the LAPD said officials had “no knowledge of any advance threats of violence or vandalism” at the protests.
At least 50 uniformed LAPD officers were huddled at Holmby Park as of 4 p.m., near where Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were to attend the fundraiser. The LAPD also deployed officers along and ahead of the Biden motorcade route to close streets for the roughly 20-minute drive from Santa Monica Airport.
Holmby Park is normally the sedate heart of one of L.A.’s most exclusive neighborhoods, where dog walkers would be the dominant group on a Friday night. But roughly 300 protesters had gathered by 4 p.m., chanting, “Palestine will live forever! Palestine will never die!” and demanding that the U.S. call for an immediate cease-fire in Israel’s war with Hamas.
A tall wire fence through the center of the park kept the demonstrators far away from the expansive Holmby Hills home where Biden will be meeting with donors.
Suraya Barakat, 24, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, said it was “very unsettling” to be in such close proximity to Biden, given the president’s unequivocal support for Israel. Barakat is Palestinian, and has family members in the West Bank.
“It would be very hard for me to cast my vote for the person supporting the genocide of my people,” Barakat said. She voted for Biden in 2020.
Brandon Kim used a black marker to write “Free Palestine” in block letters on a piece of paper sticking out of his backpack.
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