More antisemitic hate seen in L.A. after Kanye West’s hateful rants
Kanye West’s weeks-long spate of antisemitic comments drew a well-known hate group to Los Angeles this weekend for a demonstration of support on a 405 Freeway overpass, raising alarms from local officials and residents that the rapper’s rhetoric was inspiring more public bigotry.
West, also known as Ye, has attracted widespread criticism and was locked out of his Instagram and Twitter accounts in recent weeks for comments online and in TV interviews espousing antisemitic conspiracy theories that have spurred hate and violence against Jewish people in the past — including that they have outsized power and influence in the media.
In addition to freezing his social media accounts, West’s comments have drawn public demands that he lose lucrative endorsements and further threatened his waning celebrity cachet.
On Saturday, demonstrators gave Nazi salutes as they stood behind a large overpass banner that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” according to images collected by antidiscrimination organizations and Jewish residents appalled by the group’s message.
“It’s not just words,” said Sam Yebri, a lawyer and former Anti-Defamation League board member who lives in Westwood and took to Twitter to denounce the event. “There is clearly a connection to white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements.”
Responding to the overpass demonstration, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said on Twitter on Sunday that antisemitism cannot be tolerated and that he stands with the Jewish community. “We cannot tolerate the #AntiSemitism that was on full display ... on an LA Fwy,” Gascón wrote. "#WhiteSupremacy is a societal cancer that must be excised. This message is dangerous & cannot be normalized.”
Yebri said the demonstration was just one of many antisemitic incidents in the city in recent days and weeks. Residents also have found fliers at their homes and on their cars spewing racist and otherwise bigoted stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jewish and LGBTQ people, he said.
Yebri said he recently found a flier at his home casting the COVID-19 pandemic and response as part of a Jewish “agenda.” He said fliers found across the city have espoused the well-worn antisemitic idea that Jewish people somehow exert outsized influence over the media. Friends flagged other fliers found in L.A. neighborhoods that alleged both the Biden administration and the LGBTQ rights movement are controlled by Jewish people, he said. “This is an issue that we need more attention and more action on,” said Yebri, who is running for the L.A. City Council seat of outgoing 5th District Councilmember Paul Koretz. “People are terrified and feel abandoned by our leaders, who are neither speaking up nor doing anything about this increase in antisemitism.” The Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments said Sunday that they were investigating the recent distribution of antisemitic fliers. In Beverly Hills, police said they were investigating the overnight distribution of about 25 fliers blaming gun control measures on Jewish people. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the department’s major crimes division was “aggressively investigating a series of flier drops” that appeared to be connected to those in Beverly Hills. Investigators have located video of a vehicle they believe was involved, he said, and “will continue to pursue every avenue to identify and prosecute individuals whenever possible involved in these antisemitic attacks.”
West has been widely criticized for his antisemitic remarks, including one in which he said he was going to “Go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
He made further antisemitic remarks in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
West, who is Black, had faced criticism as well for wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt to his YZY runway show during Paris Fashion Week. The controversy around him gained additional momentum when it was reported that he was buying the right-wing social media company Parler.
Yebri said neither antisemitism nor the ideas espoused in the fliers found around L.A. are new, but he nonetheless drew a connection between the recent proliferation and West’s rhetoric.
“Kanye’s remarks give added air and momentum to the hate that previously was limited to the dark corners of the internet,” Yebri said. “Now it’s popping up in neighborhoods, at people’s homes and throughout Los Angeles.”
Several of the fliers Yebri and his friends and neighbors have collected, reviewed by The Times, make reference to the group Goyim Defense League, which has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the organization StopAntisemitism.]
Both the Anti-Defamation League and StopAntisemitism attributed the overpass demonstration to the Goyim Defense League, which has roots in California and has repeatedly staged antisemitic demonstrations in L.A. and neighboring cities such as Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
They accused one of the group’s leaders, Jon Minadeo II of the Northern California city of Petaluma, of leading the demonstration and at one point yelling at a California Highway Patrol officer who had responded to the scene.
Minadeo could not be reached for comment Sunday.
StopAntisemitism said the demonstration represented a “merging” of West’s “horrific antisemitic outbursts” and the Goyim Defense League’s track record of distributing antisemitic materials in the region.
“White supremacists capitalizing on Ye’s ongoing antisemitic tantrums is another example of how extremists find a commonality in the hatred of Jews,” said Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism. “While the atrocious and bigoted behavior of the GDL may be protected by the 1st Amendment, this is clearly a targeted harassment campaign against the Jewish people.”
Rez called on elected officials and law enforcement to “find a way to put an end to these antics before someone gets hurt.”
Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said the overpass demonstration was “the latest example of how extremists across the ideological spectrum have embraced” West’s rhetoric.
He said the Goyim Defense League had recently taken to the messaging platform Telegram to discuss capitalizing on West’s comments with yet more fliers — this time blaming Jewish people for the slave trade.
Segal said West’s most recent rhetoric “has helped advance the spread of long-standing hateful and false narratives shared by extremist groups.”
West responded to the “death con” tweet, which has since been deleted, telling interviewer Piers Morgan that he apologized to those people hurt by the comment but that he didn’t regret making it.