The elderly Jewish protester killed in California on Sunday during a clash with pro-Palestinian supporters has been identified as a “man committed to peace and committed to Israel,” as police consider filing hate crime charges with the attack.
Paul Kessler, 69, was involved in rival rallies in Thousand Oaks on Sunday – one in support of Israel and the other supports the Palestinian cause.
Kessler was allegedly involved in a fight with another person, during which he fell backwards and hit his head on the ground. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles alleged that Kessler was “hit in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protester.”
Harrowing images on social media showed him lying on the ground with a pool of blood beneath him as medics rushed to help him.
Photos from before the incident showed Kessler waving an Israeli flag next to his wife, Cheryl. Rabbi Michael Barclay, who heads Temple Ner Simcha, shared the Los Angeles Times that the couple attended Solemnity services in his synagogue, but had not worshiped recently.
Barclay said he regularly exchanged emails with Kessler, but he did not have a good relationship with the family. He described the slain activist as a “man committed to peace and committed to Israel.”
A witness says they saw 69-year-old Paul Kessler, pictured here, waving an Israeli flag before being accosted by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator during Sunday’s protest in Thousand Oaks.
A Palestinian supporter appears to help Kessler after he clashed with other protesters
Kessler’s death has been ruled a homicide and police are continuing to investigate. Authorities say they have not ruled out his death as a hate crime
A vigil was held for Kessler on Monday evening following his death following the incident on Sunday afternoon
Kessler was taken to hospital on Sunday but died from his injuries the next day. Authorities have not ruled out filing hate crime charges.
Kessler’s wife was said to be ‘in total shock’ on Monday.
Witnesses told it ABC Los Angeles that both sides worked against each other when things got physical.
“They were both standing on a flat surface and they were yelling at each other, and then the guy brought his megaphone up and hit Paul, and Paul went down,” said an unnamed witness.
Another witness, Lu Johnson, told the story the Ventura County star that he drove through the intersection where Kessler was injured around 3:28 p.m. Earlier, Johnson said he saw Kessler standing outside the Shell station waving a flag.
When the driver later passed, they saw Kessler lying on the ground, bleeding from his head. ‘We were in shock. “We saw that man bleeding from his back,” he said. Around the same time, Johnson said he saw a man shouting into a megaphone.
Johnson also said the officers who arrived on the scene did not stop the man from using the bullhorn. “I watched this go on and on for the next few minutes.”
One of the organizers of the pro-Palestinian protest site, the Conejo Valley Anti-Fascists, said in a post on X: “We have some news to share tomorrow about the tragic loss of life over the weekend. There are irresponsible assumptions and accusations flying around.’
“We have unreported facts that may surprise some in our community. We are heartbroken and will have more to share soon,” the group said. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office will also hold a news conference at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
Local Rabbi Moshe Bryski told the New York Post that Kessler’s death was “just a tragedy.”
Witnesses told investigators that Kessler was involved in a struggle with other protesters. He fell backwards and hit his head on the ground. The Los Angeles Times reported that Kessler was hit in the head before falling back
Kessler was dueling a protest in California on Sunday, with some supporting Israel and others pro-Palestine
Sunday’s incident occurred at the corner of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Road (photo)
The rabbi added that Kessler was at the event to serve as a counter-protester against a pro-Palestinian rally.
Bryski said that when he contacted Kessler’s wife Monday morning, she was “in total shock.”
The collision happened Sunday around 3:20 p.m. when police were called to a reported battery.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived and found Kessler suffering from head injuries. He was taken to hospital, where he died on Monday.
An autopsy revealed that Kessler died of blunt force trauma to the head and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Witnesses told investigators that Kessler was involved in a struggle with other protesters. He fell backwards and hit his head on the ground. The Los Angeles Times previously reported that Kessler was hit in the head before falling back.
Authorities described the incident as isolated and not part of a larger effort.
Rabbi Barclay said police had identified a suspect who was involved in an altercation with Kessler before he fell, but there were conflicting witness accounts as to whether Kessler was pushed or tripped.
The Jewish Federation said in a statement: “While we await more information from our law enforcement partners, we remind you that this is the fourth major anti-Semitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone.
‘Violence against our people has no place in a civilized society. We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything we can to prevent this.’
Ventura County Supervisor Jeff Gorell, whose district covers the location where the incident occurred, said he was notified by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
“I am heartbroken to learn today of the tragic death of an elderly man after he was beaten during a protest in my district,” he tweeted.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke out against the attack.
“We urge everyone to wait until the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office completes its investigation before drawing any conclusions. While we strongly support the right to political debate, CAIR-LA and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting any violence, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and incitement to hatred.”