An elderly Jewish man has died after a head injury during a clash between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protestors in Los Angeles. Paul Kessler, aged 69 was rushed to hospital after he fell to the ground bleeding.
Kessler was involved in pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rallies occurring alongside each other at Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards. He is understood to have been counter-protesting. A photo before the incident shows Kessler waving an Israeli flag.
Conflicting reports say he either struck his head on the ground or was hit on the head with a megaphone by a pro-Palestinian protestor before falling. The incident occurred on Sunday 3:20pm PST.
His death on Monday has been confirmed to be caused by a brain haemorrhage. US Police are now investigating Kessler’s death as a homicide. They are not ruling out that the act was a hate crime.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement: “During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground.
“The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide.” They have yet to confirm if a suspect has been arrested.
Footage on social media shows Kessler lying on the ground, bleeding. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has claimed that this was an act of “violence against our community”. In a statement, they said “While we wait for more information from our law enforcement partners, we remind you that this is the fourth major antisemitic 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.”
A local Rabbi named Michael Barclay has tried to disquiet these accusations as there is no video footage of the altercation itself.
On X Barclay wrote, “Please do not make assumptions or accusations until the police can do their job and/or we get real video.
"Please do NOT post misinformation about the horrible death of an elderly Jew yesterday here in Westlake, where I am the local Rabbi. I have had long conversations with the Chief of Police and they are investigating the different accounts of what happened and reviewing the video.”
Another local rabbi, Moshe Bryski, who was reportedly at the protest told the New York Post that Kessler’s death was “just a tragedy”.
The Los Angeles area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it was “deeply saddened by this tragic and shocking loss” but has also urged against using the incident for political means.
It said in a statement: "We join local Jewish leaders in calling on all individuals to refrain from jumping to conclusions, sensationalizing such a tragedy for political gains, or spreading rumours that could unnecessarily escalate tensions that are already at an all-time high.”
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