Jewish Lawmakers Slam 'Unsafe' California Dem Convention After Anti-Israel Protesters Shut Down Events

(Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
November 20, 2023

Democratic Jewish lawmakers said this weekend’s California Democratic convention felt unsafe after anti-Israel protesters coordinated by a state progressive group and others shut the event down on Saturday.

"A number of Jewish delegates—who were already very anxious attending the convention, given the spike in anti-Semitism since the October 7 massacre by Hamas—now believe it is unsafe to participate at all," the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, which is comprised of 13 Democratic state lawmakers, said in a Saturday statement. The caucus did not immediately respond as to whether or how many delegates left before the convention concluded.

The caucus added that activists chanted "resistance is justified when people are occupied," an apparent reference to Hamas’s Oct. 7 slaughter and kidnapping of civilians, as well as "from the river to the sea," a phrase urging the destruction of Israel.

These protesters disrupted convention events throughout the day, eventually forcing Democratic Party officials to cancel their evening programming, the Sacramento Bee reported. About 2,500 activists started at the state capitol before marching through the city, the Sacramento police department told the Washington Free Beacon, while 150 to 200 people protested at the convention center. The department said no one was injured and that the Democratic Party had hired private security to safeguard the inside of the convention center.

The shutdown of a state California Democratic convention by the party’s own left-wing faction follows last week’s violent anti-Israel protest outside the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., where Democratic lawmakers had to be evacuated and activists injured six police officers while calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The protest comes as the two leading Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, are both under fire from progressive activists over their support for Israel. Protesters interrupted Porter and Schiff while they were speaking. Rep. Barbara Lee, the party’s most progressive candidate in that race who has called for a ceasefire, secured the state Democrats’ endorsement for the seat with 42 percent of the delegates’ support, although Schiff and Porter are leading the polls of California voters.

Coordinators of the Sacramento protest included the Arab American Caucus, an officially recognized legislative group within the Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the California Progressive Alliance.

State Democratic leaders have been slow to condemn the disruptions. California Democratic Party chair Rusty Hicks did not address the protests until Sunday, when he called them "unacceptable," according to a Politico reporter. Hicks also said that Jewish delegates "were openly intimidated and harassed." The California Democratic Party did not respond to a request for comment.

California governor Gavin Newsom, the state’s top Democrat, has not yet weighed in on the shutdown. A representative for Newsom did not respond to a request for comment.