Pro-Palestinian protesters clash with Democrats at holiday party

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators disrupted a Democratic Party holiday gathering in Detroit last weekend, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. When the protesters refused to leave, a brawl ensued, leaving Bobbie Johnson, a local party activist, hospitalized with two black eyes, according to Bridge Michigan, a local news site. 

No arrests have been made, but Detroit Police are investigating the incident, reported WXYZ, a local ABC affiliate.

The annual holiday party for Democratic activists in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District began as usual at a local restaurant. Then, Congressman Shri Thanedar, who represents the district in the House of Representatives, rose to speak. 

After about thirty seconds, a woman with a megaphone disrupted the event, loudly calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Alongside her were 20 to 30 other protesters, Bridge Michigan reported, who refused to move when the event organizers and the restaurant managers repeatedly asked them to leave. 

“They were being disruptive, and they were not supposed to be there,” Jonathan Kinloch, who chairs the local Democratic party, told media. “The owner asked them to leave, I asked them to leave, they refused to leave, so they were removed from a place they had no business and no legal right to be in.”

Members of the Jewish Voice for Peace group and allies rally in support of a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, during a protest in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., November 7, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/DIEU-NALIO CHERY)

Disruption dissolved into chaos, physical fights

A melee broke out when party guests attempted to force the protesters out of the restaurant. “I started it,” Sterling Jackson, a guest at the holiday party, said. “I couldn’t believe they were doing this, and nobody was doing anything.” 

That moment and much of the fighting were captured on cell phone cameras and uploaded to social media. Kinloch posted a video to X that shows activists and party guests shoving each other and shouting in each other’s faces while Christmas music plays in the background and a handful of activists shout “ceasefire now!”

A longer video, found on the WXYZ website, begins shortly after the initial disruption, as the protesters begin to chant, “Shri, Shri, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” Soon, protesters begin to shove and grab each other, and the scene quickly devolves into chaos. Those who were invited to the party succeeded in pushing the protesters out of the building. A few of them attempted to re-enter while the rest were chanting, “Shame on you!” from outside.

Once removed from the restaurant, protesters proceeded to bang on its windows, an act that Smith denounced to the press: “They had their boots and shoes, banging up against the windows, and you can imagine how that sounds, and how fearful the people were, especially the senior people that was there.”

Party leaders, protesters disagree on the takeaway

In the aftermath of the event, those who had organized it denounced the disruption as not just wrong, but counterproductive. “This is not going to give you support for your cause,” Thanedar said. “I welcome them to come to my office, I welcome them to invite me to town halls where I can come, and we can have a dialogue.” 

Kinloch had a similar message. “It’s not productive.”

Addressing the matter of race, raised by many of those involved—on both sides—the local Democratic party chairman added: “At the end of the day, I’ve got a whole bunch of Black issues… I have great conversations with Arab communities, even after what happened Saturday.” 

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