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Marchers gather in Westwood to back Palestinians

More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered Saturday for a noisy, pro-Palestinian rally near the Westwood federal building, marching to Westwood Village and returning to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue.

Earlier, demonstrators crowded the sidewalks at the intersection, some carrying signs reading “Free Palestine” and “Shame on Israel.” One group chanted “Intifada,” which means “uprising.”

At one point a man climbed up a traffic signal to unfurl a banner reading “Freedom” and “We are all Gaza.” As he climbed down, police moved in to arrest him. Demonstrators chanted, “Let him go,” crowding into police. Officers pushed demonstrators back, and a woman in a head scarf was shoved by police.

Some demonstrators reacted angrily, throwing cans and other objects. Another used a bullhorn to calm tempers and get people marching east on Wilshire and then north on Gayley Avenue.

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Three people, including the man who unfurled the banner and another who climbed a flagpole on the federal building grounds, were arrested, according to a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman on the scene. The LAPD estimated the number of demonstrators at more than 1,000.

Most of the demonstrators were peaceful and included women pushing children in strollers and Aztec dancers pounding on drums. But others were more agitated and carried inflammatory signs, including one that read “Zionist Nazis.” Some demonstrators carried posters showing graphic photos of dead Palestinian children.

A much smaller contingent of pro-Israeli demonstrators gathered on the southwest corner of Wilshire and Veteran.

Because the demonstration took place near the federal building and involved city, state and federal lands, a unified command post was established, including the LAPD, Homeland Security, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the L.A. Fire Department. Authorities blocked southbound traffic on Veteran Avenue.

The Palestinian support rally was organized by the Free Palestine Alliance and Answer L.A.

Jacob Dayan, consul general for Israel for the southwest United States, called those involved in Saturday’s protest pro-Hamas, referring to the militant Palestinian group.

“They are not demonstrating for the chance at peace or for moderate Palestinians,” he said in a phone interview. “They are strengthening the radicals in the region.”

The protest came on the 15th day of the conflict in Gaza, in which Israel has waged air and artillery attacks against Hamas, which had fired rockets into Israel. More than 800 Palestinians have been killed. Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting have faltered.

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hector.becerra@latimes.com


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