EL CAJON, Calif. — A "We Are Israel" rally got underway Sunday in El Cajon with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, conservative radio host and California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder, and the city's mayor Bill Wells in attendance. Meanwhile, an opposing group held a protest nearby to voice a differing opinion.
Police were seen lining a portion of Main Street in El Cajon in helmets after the two events got underway. The El Cajon Police Department tweeted about a traffic alert due to pedestrians in roadways at Roanoke Road and Main Street just before 3:30 p.m. Just after 3:30 p.m, the agency tweeted a road closure between Claydelle and Magnolia avenues on Main Street.
It appeared the opposing group was marching toward the rally site at one point and there were reports of clashes between the two groups. As of 5 p.m., things in the area appeared calm as Elder finished his time on stage. Pompeo spoke next.
A confrontation reportedly occurred about 3:40 p.m. on West Main, blocks away from the rally, involving fistfights and pepper spray or mace between some marchers and a group of counter-protesters.
At 4 p.m., the pro-Palestinian marchers regrouped and headed back to the park, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The group Shield of David promoted the "We Are Israel" rally at Prescott Promenade on East Main Street saying it is a group of over 2,000 local Jewish community members. Organizers said the rally was being held to denounce antisemitism.
"With a rise of recent Jewish hate crimes, Shield of David wants to empower all people to be proud of their heritage and fight for ideals of truth, justice, and liberty," a release on the event read in part.
Shield of David noted that a survey of American Jewish people conducted by the Anti-Defamation League this year found that in the past five years, 63% had experienced or witnessed antisemitism. That figure was up from 54% in 2020.
The group of protesters opposing the rally gathered in El Cajon City Park in response to what they called a "pro-Israel" rally. The group of over a dozen "local, civil, human rights, and justice organizations" labeled Shield of David as a zionist organization.
Jeanine Erikat, with the San Diego Chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement said it was "troubling" that El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells would welcome the rally to a city with large Muslim and Arab communities.
"This anti-Palestinian rally comes after Palestinians, their communities, and allies across San Diego protested against the escalating Israeli military violence in May and June of 2021," a release for the event read in part. "Organizers of the community rally view it as a reactionary response to the growing movement for Palestinian rights across the US and around the world.
Erikat called the event "racist and white supremacist" in the release.
"The fight against anti-Jewish hate is real and urgent, but this anti-Muslim and anti-Arab event is clearly intended to silence Palestinians and divide our community," said Oren Robinson with the San Diego Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. "We join with Palestinians in calling on Israel to end the occupation. If Mike Pompeo cared about the Jewish community, he should first condemn his former boss Donald J. Trump's long track record of anti-Jewish remarks."