Anti-Israel Protesters Shut Down California Legislature

Pro-Palestinian protest in Los Angeles (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
January 4, 2024

Over 100 anti-Israel protesters shut down the California Assembly on Wednesday during its first legislative session of the year, as lawmakers face a massive $68 billion deficit and crises from rising homelessness and crime.

"We all knew something was up" when hundreds of people filed into the galleries with face coverings, said GOP assemblyman Joe Patterson. The protesters flooded the balconies overlooking the assembly chamber early Wednesday afternoon ahead of the call to order and most refused to stand for the prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance.

As Speaker pro tempore Jim Wood (D.) launched into the business of the day, the protesters began singing "ceasefire now," drowning out the legislators as they tried to speak. Wood rebuked them as "disruptive," but was ultimately forced to call a recess. After a short break, Wood wrapped business in the chamber and dismissed the lawmakers for the day. A spokesman for the California capitol police put the number of protesters at 150, and said they did not obtain a permit to demonstrate on capitol grounds.

This shutdown of legislative business marked another successful disruption for anti-Israel protesters in Sacramento. In November a progressive group coordinated sit-ins at the state Democratic party convention, forcing leaders to cancel the remainder of the day’s events. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) called off the state capitol’s traditional live Christmas tree lighting ceremony in order to avoid planned protests.

"I think it’s going to get worse," Patterson said of the escalating anti-Israel disruptions. "[The protesters] are laser-focused on disrupting organizations to get their flawed message out."

Wednesday’s protests coincided with a Dear Colleague letter from the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, petitioning the legislature to start a policy crackdown on anti-Semitism on California public school and university campuses. The group’s ideas include forming a legislative committee on anti-Semitism, making sure that K-12 schools "are not teaching children propaganda and falsehoods about Jews and Israel," and requiring schools to include Holocaust instruction in their curricula.

Their letter decried the push by progressive ethnic studies groups to teach anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tropes on K-12 campuses through ethnic studies courses—noting that all the Jewish caucus members backed the legislation to make ethnic studies a state graduation requirement.

"Unfortunately, these disturbing incidents build upon an ongoing effort by a group of activists with extreme views who, for years, have been attempting to use ethnic studies as a vehicle to teach anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate in our public schools," the letter said.