Pictured: Jewish Paul Kessler, 69, minutes before he was attacked
Pictured: Jewish Paul Kessler, 69, minutes before he was attacked with a megaphone and killed in ‘hate crime’ on California’s streets during clash between protesters at Israel-Palestine rally
- The death of a Jewish man during a Pro-Palestine protest has been ruled a ‘homicide’ by authorities who are now considering hate crime charges
The elderly Jewish protester killed in California during a skirmish with Pro-Palestine supporters on Sunday has been identified as a ‘man committed to peace and committed to Israel’ as cops weigh filing hate crime charges in the attack.
Paul Kessler, 69, was caught up in rival rallies in Thousand Oaks on Sunday – one in support of Israel and the other backing the Palestinian cause.
Kessler is understood to have been involved in a tussle with another person where he fell backward and hit his head on the ground. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles claimed Kessler was ‘struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.’
Harrowing social media footage showed him lying on the ground with a pool of blood under him as medics rushed to help him.
Photos from before the incident showed Kessler waving an Israeli flag alongside his wife, Cheryl. Rabbi Michael Barclay, who leads Temple Ner Simcha told the Los Angeles Times that the couple attended High Holiday services at his synagogue but hadn’t worshipped recently.
Barclay said that he regularly exchanged emails with Kessler but that he was not close with the family. He described the slain activist as a ‘man committed to peace and committed to Israel.’
A witness says that they saw Paul Kessler, 69, shown here, waving an Israeli flag before being accosted by a Pro-Palestine protester during the protest in Thousand Oaks on Sunday
A Palestinian supporter appears to be helping Kessler after he clashed with other protestors
Kessler’s death has been ruled a homicide and police continue to investigate. Authorities say they have not ruled out his death being a hate crime
A vigil was held on Monday evening for Kessler following his death after the incident on Sunday afternoon
Kessler was taken to the hospital on Sunday but died of his injuries the following day. Authorities have not ruled out filing hate crime charges.
Kessler’s wife on Monday was said to be ‘in a state of total shock.’
Witnesses told ABC Los Angeles that both sides had been antagonizing each other when it turned physical.
‘They were both on an even ground, and they were yelling at each other, and then the man brought his megaphone up and hit Paul, and Paul went down,’ one unnamed witness said.
Another witness, Lu Johnson, told the Ventura County Star that he was driving through the intersection where Kessler was hurt around 3:28pm. Earlier, Johnson said he had seen Kessler standing outside of Shell station waving a flag.
When they drover passed later, they saw Kessler on the ground bleeding from his head. ‘We were in shock. We saw that man on his back bleeding,’ he said. Around the same time, Johnson said that he saw a man on megaphone yelling.
Johnson also said that the deputies that descended on the scene did not stop the man from using the megaphone. ‘I saw this go on and on over the next few minutes.’
One of the organizers of the Pro-Palestine site of the protest, the Conejo Valley Antifascists said in a message on X: ‘We have some news to share tomorrow about the tragic loss of life over the weekend. There are irresponsible assumptions and accusations flying around.’
‘We have facts not yet reported that may surprise some in our community. We are heartbroken and will have more to share soon,’ the group said. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is also due to hold a press conference on Tuesday at 10:00am local time.
Local rabbi Moshe Bryski told the New York Post that Kessler’s death was ‘just a tragedy.’
Witnesses told investigators that Kessler was involved in a scrum with other protestors. He fell back and hit his head on the ground. The Los Angeles Times reported that Kessler was hit in the head before falling back
Kessler was a dueling protests in California on Sunday, with some backing Israel and others who were pro-Palestine
Sunday’s incident occurred at the corner of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Road (pictured)
The rabbi added that Kessler was at the event to serve as a counter-protestor to a Pro-Palestinian gathering.
Bryski said when he contacted Kessler’s wife on Monday morning, she was ‘in a state of total shock.’
The clash happened around 3:20pm on Sunday when police were called for a reported battery.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived and found Kessler with a head injury. He was taken the hospital, where he died on Monday.
An autopsy determined Kessler died from a blunt force head injury and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Witnesses told investigators that Kessler was involved in a scrum with other protestors. He fell back and hit his head on the ground. The Los Angeles Times earlier reported that Kessler was hit in the head before falling back.
Authorities described the incident as isolated and not part of a larger effort.
Rabbi Barclay said police had identified a suspected who was involved in an altercation with Kessler before he fell, but there were conflicting witness reports as to whether Kessler was pushed or tripped.
The Jewish Federation said in a statement: ‘While we wait for more information from our law enforcement partners, we remind you that this is the fourth major anti-Semitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone.
‘Violence against our people has no place in civilized society. We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it.’
Ventura County Supervisor Jeff Gorell, whose district covers the location where the incident took place, said he’d been briefed by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
‘I’m heartbroken to hear of the tragic death of an elderly man today after having been struck at a protest in my district,’ he tweeted.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke out against the attack.
‘We urge everyone to wait for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to complete its investigation before drawing any conclusions. While we strongly support the right of political debate, CAIR-LA and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting any and all violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or incitement of hatred.’
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