(JTA) — Two people were taken into custody Sunday night as violence broke out at dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies in Skokie, a Chicago suburb with a large Jewish community.
Several skirmishes occurred at the protests — a pro-Israel rally that drew 1,000 people and a 200-person pro-Palestinian counterprotest. The clashes between protesters are among several physical confrontations that have taken place between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian activists following Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and Israel’s ensuing war against the terror group in Gaza.
Jewish and Muslim groups in the United States have warned of a rising climate of antisemitism and Islamophobia due to the war. The Anti-Defamation League has tallied a spike in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, and a range of groups condemned anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate following the murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in a Chicago suburb.
In one instance at the Skokie protests, witnesses said a man wearing a black sweatshirt and driving a car covered in Israeli flags confronted a group of pro-Palestinian protesters. When that group surrounded the man, he drew a gun and fired a shot into the air. Nobody was injured. Video of the event from the Chicago Sun-Times shows that police arrested the man, who was pinned to the ground, handcuffed and led away.
Another pro-Israel rally-goer was arrested for spraying a can of mace at a crowd after grabbing a Palestinian flag from a counter-protester. The man, who was holding an Israeli flag, maced several protesters in addition to a police officer and Sun-Times reporter. According to the Sun-Times, two people hit with the spray told police they were considering pressing charges and pushing for the man to be prosecuted for hate crimes.
The brother of the man who used the mace told the Sun-Times that they attended the Israeli solidarity event and upon leaving “were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I don’t have any negative messages for anybody,” said the bother, Josh, who declined to give his full name. “There is a lot of tension … I don’t think being aggressive is the way to go,” he said.
Other skirmishes at the rally do not appear to have resulted in arrests. In one incident, a person was struck by a car in a hit-and-run which is under investigation and in which no one was seriously injured. In another incident, also captured on video, people with Palestinian flags chase and punch a man before a police officer intervenes.
The pro-Israel rally was hosted by the Chicago branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in partnership with a number of other Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish National Fund. Alison Pure-Slovin, Midwest Regional Director of Simon Weisenthal Center, said in a statement to the Sun-Times that “this is the United States of America and people have the right to have their voice. I’m just sorry that it disrupted the voice that we tried to create as well.”
According to NBC, the pro-Palestinian rally was organized by the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.
The Midwest office of the ADL tweeted that “We are aware of the incident in Skokie and are in touch with law enforcement and our community partners.”