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They rattled and swayed the wire fence installed to separate them from the world’s most powerful man.
Faced with the barrier, the 1,200-1,500 pro-Palestinian protesters who gathered Friday at Holmby Park shouted louder — calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. financial and military aid to Israel.
They charged President Biden and others attending the heavyweight fundraiser across the street with supporting Palestinian “genocide,” and chanted against Israel, the Israel Defense Forces and the Los Angeles Police Department.
Some protesters carried signs that read, “End all U.S. aid to Israel,” “America, don’t let your tax $ fund killing babies” and “come November we’ll remember.” They wore clothing symbolizing their cause, including the black-and-white keffiyeh; and bore banners, balloons and Palestinian flags.
The demonstration reached a fever pitch inside the park near 5:30 p.m. when a police motorcade flew by the protesters en route to the fundraiser.
Police declared an "unlawful assembly" at about 5:45 p.m, but the park wasn't abandoned for another hour, when protesters spilled onto adjacent streets — marching near entrances to the Los Angeles Country Club on Comstock Avenue near Wilshire Boulevard.
While some officers said they were hit with eggs and water by demonstrators, there were no reported injuries or arrests as of 7:45 p.m. Some walls along Wilshire were tagged with graffiti, and protesters blocked and delayed traffic at various points along the thoroughfare.
Inside the fundraiser, Biden spoke for about 11 minutes, but did not mention Gaza.
Ahead of the protest, the Los Angeles Police Department warned that “violence of any kind will not be tolerated.”
The LAPD said in a post on the social media platform X that it was working with the Secret Service to deploy additional officers and other resources to “ensure the highest level of public safety.”
A Los Angeles police officer unofficially estimated that 240 personnel were on scene for the protest.
At least 50 uniformed LAPD officers were huddled at Holmby Park as of 4 p.m. 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.
A tall wire fence through the center of the park kept the demonstrators far away from the expansive Holmby Hills home where Biden met 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.
Kim, 33, said he had supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic primary, but eventually voted for Biden because the only other option was Donald Trump. He said he was likely to make the same choice if he's facing the same dilemma next year.
"It's like a gun to my head," Kim said. "I don't want to get shot."
Nick Billing, 37, walked among the crowd carrying both a Palestinian flag and a large watermelon balloon. The fruit has become a symbol of support for Palestine on digital platforms that have banned the Palestinian flag.
"There's a genocide taking place against the people of Palestine," Billing said. "And we have to use our voices to let our government know we don't support that. We need to stop it."
Pro-Palestinian groups including the Palestinian Youth Movement posted on social media encouraging supporters to “leave work early” and to “get ready to shut it down for Palestine,” drawing thousands of likes and interactions.
One post by the youth group included faux blood and played on Biden’s “Dark Brandon” meme, featuring glowing red eyes and referring to the president as “Genocide Joe.”
The group urged followers to “show up and hold a picket line with us for as long as it takes!”
Previous peaceful pro-Palestinian protests have taken place in Pershing Square, where tens of thousands gathered on Oct. 21, as well as at the Israeli consulate on Nov. 4 and in Hollywood on Nov. 15. A smaller-scale protest organized by progressive Jewish activists took place outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ Brentwood home in October.
The protests have cascaded into a nationwide movement by demonstrators calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and for the United States to end financial and military aid to Israel.
After Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing roughly 1,200 people and kidnapping more than 240, Israel responded with a bombing offensive and eventual ground war in Gaza believed to be responsible for at least 17,000 Palestinian deaths.
Friday night's fundraiser is hosted by Hollywood directors Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner, producers Shonda Rhimes and Peter Chernin, former studio chief Jim Gianopulos and the developer and former Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso. Mayor Karen Bass, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Rep. Nancy Pelosi are also expected to attend.
The event marks the first such fundraising gala since the end of two entertainment industry strikes. Individual donations could soar to close to $1 million.
Biden’s visit runs from Friday to Sunday, and with his arrival and departure from LAX, traffic is expected to be affected.
Caltrans spokesperson Marc Bischoff said that ramp closures will not include an “advance announcement to the public” for security reasons, but concerned motorists can check for closures with Caltrans.
Times staff writers Laura J. Nelson, Seema Mehta and Anthony De Leon contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.