A rally to support Israel in Skokie, Illinois over the weekend turned chaotic and violent when about 200 pro-Palestinian protestors showed up outside the banquet hall where the rally was taking place.
Though police were on hand to keep the two sides apart, at one point a smaller group of protestors broke away from the crowd, with one of them apparently yanking an Israeli flag off of a motorist’s car. When the man got out of the car to get his flag back, he was quickly surrounded by the mob, and ended up firing a shot into the air to get them to back away.
The man was quickly taken into custody by Lincolnwood police, but was released on Monday after Cook County prosecutors determined the man was acting in self-defense.
The 39-year-old man, who prosecutors declined to name, was released from police custody. In a statement issued Monday, prosecutors said the man, a Firearm Owner Identification Card and Concealed Carry License holder, had “no criminal history.”
“After reviewing the evidence, which includes surveillance video and witness statements, we have determined the individual … acted in self-defense upon being surrounded by a crowd and attacked by some of those individuals,” according to the statement.
Hatem Abuddayeh, the national chair of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, said the state’s attorney’s office was “absolutely wrong” in releasing the man, who he said “endangered hundreds.”
He blamed America’s political leaders, specifically President Joe Biden and some elected officials in Illinois who have voiced support for Israel, for stoking the attacks.
“Our leaders are responsible for the attacks,” Abuddayeh said. “The state’s attorney’s office has a responsibility of keeping people safe … These are the things that put us in danger.”
C’mon now. First of all, this wasn’t an attack, at least not on the part of the concealed carry holder. He was defending himself against an attack from an angry mob, and honestly showed remarkable restraint (if not the smartest gun handling) by firing a warning shot into the air rather than taking aim at any of the individuals who were attacking him.
The pro-Palestinian protesters had a First Amendment right to be there, but no one had the right to take his property off his car, and they certainly didn’t have the right to attack him when he tried to get his flag back.
“I don’t think [pro-Palestinian protesters] are gonna be dissuaded from wanting to do more and being public in their support for their people and their demands of our government,” Abuddayeh said. “But it’s a message to our community that the people in charge don’t care that we’re being attacked.”
Alison Pure-Slovin, the Midwest regional director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which organized the Israeli solidarity event, said prosecutors likely decided not to press charges because the man “didn’t feel safe.”
“He was afraid because he was accosted by other people,” Pure-Slovin said. “The United States of America guarantees free speech. You should not be accosted because of your beliefs.”
Pure-Slotkin is absolutely right, and it’s true for both sides. If the concealed carry holder had been driving by and decided to accost the people protesting the pro-Israel event by threatening them with a gun, he should and would have faced charges. But that’s not what happened here, and it sounds like Abuddayeh is grossly twisting the facts to suit his own cause.