No charges for man who fired gun near pro-Palestinian rally outside Chicago, prosecutor says
Oct 24, 2023, 11:17 AM
CHICAGO (AP) — Charges will not be filed against the man who fired a gunshot into the air near pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside an Israel solidarity event in Chicago’s northern suburbs, prosecutors said Monday evening after determining that he acted in self-defense.
A group of about 200 pro-Palestinian protesters had rallied Sunday evening outside a banquet hall in Skokie, where people were gathered to show solidarity with Israel, according to police.
Witnesses told the Chicago Sun-Times that a man drove his car toward the group. Lincolnwood Police, who were called to assist Skokie Police, have previously said in a statement the 39-year-old man fired a shot into the air before officers took him into custody.
A witness told the newspaper that the man’s car had been covered in Israeli flags.
After reviewing surveillance video and witness statements, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office said in an emailed statement that prosecutors will not file charges against the man who fired the gun. His name was not released.
Officials determined that the man “acted in self-defense upon being surrounded by a crowd and attacked by some of those individuals,” the statement said. “No charges will be filed in this case.”
The prosecutor’s office added that the man holds a valid firearm owners ID card and conceal carry license, and had no criminal history.
Also Sunday at the protest, another man coming out of the banquet hall wearing an Israeli flag as a cape pepper sprayed the crowd before he was arrested, the newspaper reported. No one was seriously hurt, but the pepper spray hit several protesters, a Chicago police officer and a Sun-Times reporter.
The state’s attorney office did not address inquiries Monday on whether charges would be filed against the person who pepper sprayed attendees.
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 a gunshot and saw someone 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,” he said, but “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 Monday 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, adding later Monday: “Sadly, things escalated out of fear.”
The event was organized on private property “so that we could come together as a community. It was disturbing that pro-Palestinian/Hamas demonstrators blocked the roads, hindering access to those who came in peace,” Pure-Slovin said in an email.
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, police said in a statement that witnesses reported Sunday that a vehicle drove through a rally held in support for Palestinians in Gaza. 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 was 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.
Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.