Authorities are investigating whether an attack on diners thought to be Jewish outside a restaurant in Los Angeles late Tuesday night was a hate crime, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Police are also probing an incident caught on security video the night before in which an Orthodox Jewish man is seen being chased through a parking lot by a caravan of people waving Palestinian flags. He escaped unharmed.
The incidents came as the Israeli-Hamas conflict continued unabated.
The man from the parking lot told CBS L.A. they were chanting “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for God is the greatest).
“I started running for my life. I thought, ‘This was it,’ he said.
The station says he was too afraid to show his face on camera or give his name.
The brawl at the eatery, Sushi Fumi, in the upscale Beverly Grove neighborhood, occurred a little before 10 o’clock the next night.
Witnesses said a mob of pro-Palestinians attacked a group of men they believed to be Jewish who were dining on the sidewalk outside.
Cell phone video showed a group of men getting out of a car and starting to attack them while yelling anti-Semitic slurs.
One of the diners, who isn’t Jewish, told CBS L.A. a caravan waving pro-Palestinian flags approached and began throwing bottles at him and the group he was dining with. The man said he’s a photographer and the group was meeting at the restaurant to plan a wedding.
“I was speaking to one guy, ‘Relax, why are they doing that?'” the man said. “Just protest peacefully.”
The man said he was physically attacked when he tried to defend the group. He said the men used anti-Jewish profanity.
“It was a hate crime,” he said. “It was prepared, they came to fight with Jewish people.”
He said he was pepper sprayed during the attack and had to go to the hospital.
Another woman who was dining at the restaurant but didn’t want to be identified described the scene to CBS L.A. Wednesday. She said the men yelled anti-Semitic slurs, including the words “dirty Jew.”
“Somebody in one of the cars driving by started throwing glass bottles or glass cups at the tables and they shattered everywhere,” she said. :A bunch of the cars stopped and maybe 30 of the men in the cars got out, started running toward the tables and asking indiscriminately, ‘Who’s Jewish.'”
No one was seriously hurt. Los Angeles police said they’re investigating it as a hate crime, adding there were five victims who were either punched or injured by broken glass.
Investigators are looking for at least three suspects. The suspects were only described as white men wearing all black, as was seen in the cell phone video. They fled in a vehicle described as possibly a black Jeep, police said. The restaurant didn’t sustain any damage.
Dillon Hosier, CEO of the Israeli-American Civic Action Network, observed to CBS L.A. that, “It really does have echoes from 70, 80 years ago, unfortunately, in Nazi Germany.
“We all support free speech. We all support demonstrations. But there’s never any excuse for violence due to what is happening a world away.”
The Anti-Defamation League of Los Angeles is offering a $5,000 reward for information on the suspects in the attack.
Earlier Tuesday, a large crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the Israeli consulate in West L.A. The rally was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement.
One of the organizers of that rally told CBS L.A. they would never condone such violence.
“We’ve organized many protests. At Saturday’s protest, we had more than 20,000 people that showed up and not one single incident,” rally organizer Amani Barakat said Wednesday.
In a tweet, Mayor Eric Garcetti condemned attacks on Jewish residents, saying, “L.A. is a city of belonging, not of hate.”