Two people were arrested after police say one man fired a shot into the air and another pepper-sprayed pro-Palestinian demonstrators near an Israel solidarity event in Chicago’s northern suburbs.
The episode took place Sunday evening around a banquet hall in Skokie, where about 1,000 people had gathered to show solidarity with Israel, according to event organizers.
A group of about 200 pro-Palestinian protesters staged their own rally near the hall. A man reportedly drove his car into the group, got out and fired a shot before police said they took him into custody. A witness told the Chicago Sun-Times that the man’s car had been covered in Israeli flags, the newspaper reported.
A man coming out of the banquet hall wearing an Israeli flag as a cape sprayed the crowd with pepper spray before he was arrested. No one was seriously hurt in the melee, but the pepper spray hit several protesters, a Chicago police officer and a Sun-Times reporter.
Hatem Abudayyeh, national chair of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday that his group organized the protest along with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression to push back against Israeli aggression. He said that he heard the shot and saw the person attack the crowd with pepper spray.
“This is a concern we’re having across the country,” Abudayyeh said. “Palestinians, whether at protests or living their daily lives, are being attacked.”
He accused pro-Israeli political leaders in the U.S. of inflaming tensions.
“Not only do we have to work 24 hours a day to help educate the American public … we also have to defend our community from physical attacks on their lives,” he said.
Alison Pure-Slovin, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Midwest regional office, said in a statement that her group organized the rally. The Simon Wiesenthal Center describes itself as a global Jewish human rights activist organization.
“It was an incredible display of solidarity and support for the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” she said in the statement. She didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up message seeking comment on the arrests.
Messages left with the Skokie Police Department and the Cook County State Attorney’s Office inquiring about whether the men will be charged weren’t immediately returned.
Police in U.S. cities as well as federal authorities have been on high alert for violence driven by antisemitic or Islamophobic sentiments as the war between Israel and Hamas continues.
In Minneapolis, a rally was briefly disrupted Sunday when a man allegedly drove toward protesters who were showing support for Palestinians in Gaza. Police said in a statement that multiple witnesses reported a vehicle drove through the crowd. The Anti-War Committee released a statement saying that a “hostile driver threatened protesters with his car and a box cutter” and video circulating on social media showed protesters kicking and hitting a car before the person inside drove away.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Garrett Parten said Monday that police were still investigating and trying to “figure out what was true and what was not.” Police said that no injuries were reported and there were no arrests.
Sunday’s rally in Skokie came a little more than a week after a landlord in Plainfield, Illinois, was charged with a hate crime after he was accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounding his mother. Police said he singled out the victims because of their faith and as a response to the war.