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Protest at Federal Building leads to confrontation between crowds

By Jeong Park

Aug. 11, 2014 12:37 a.m.

About 300 pro-Palestine protesters gathered in Westwood on Sunday across the street from the largest crowd of pro-Israel counter-protesters at the Wilshire Federal Building in nearly a month.

Both crowds confronted each other at various times during the rally as about two dozen police officers and sheriff’s deputies restrained crowds from getting involved in a physical altercation.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies at the scene said there were no arrests made.

At one point, one driver was detained for a few minutes by police. Pro-Palestinian supporters who witnessed the scene said a pro-Israel supporter was trying to take a picture of them while she was driving. They said the driver almost ran over several pedestrians as she turned the corner at Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue.

Sanaz Prouza, the driver, said she neither supports nor was actively taking part in either of the protests. Prouza said she was observing the protest and suddenly felt something hitting her car. Then about five police officers surrounded her and an officer handcuffed her, Prouza said.

Israel has launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, and Hamas has launched rocket missiles at Israel for weeks. As the conflict has intensified, so has the rhetoric at local protests.

On Sunday, protesters from both groups shouted names at each other. Pro-Palestine supporters called pro-Israel supporters “baby killers” and “war criminals,” while pro-Israel supporters called pro-Palestine supporters “terrorists” and “extremists.”

Pro-Palestine supporters also expressed their frustration at the United States government and President Barack Obama, as he signed a measure on Aug. 4 to give Israel $225 million in aid for its missile defense system, which is known as the Iron Dome.

“Without Obama’s support, Israel can’t do anything,” said Reza Pour, a pro-Palestine supporter from the Union of Progressive Iranians.

Benjamin Davidson, a UCLA alumnus protesting by Parking Lot 36 across from the Federal Building, said he thinks the U.S. needs to support Israel in its fight against Hamas.

“Israel is fighting against terrorism so (the U.S. and its allies) don’t have to,” Davidson said.

Israel has been calling for the demilitarization of Gaza, which has governed the Gaza Strip for eight years and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State. Hamas has been calling for the end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Although both sides have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire on Sunday proposed by Egypt, there has been little movement on a long-term cease-fire.

As of Sunday afternoon, about 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have died since Israel first launched its military campaign on July 8, according to The New York Times.

Most deaths on the Palestinian side were civilians, according to the United Nations and several Gaza-based groups, but the Israeli military said last week that about half of Palestinian casualties were terrorists, according to The New York Times.

Compiled by Jeong Park, Bruin senior staff.

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