(Oakland, California — February 12, 2024) On February 12, 2024, Oakland attorney Mark Cohen, alongside the Oakland-Jewish Alliance, sent a letter to Oakland City Administrator Jestin Johnson and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, calling on them to investigate alleged Title VI and state civil rights violations and antisemitism faced by pro-Israel activists as they opposed an anti-Israel ceasefire resolution at Oakland City Hall on November 27, 2023. StandWithUs, a nonprofit education organization fighting antisemitism and supporting Israel, joins these parties in calling for an investigation into probable state and federal civil rights violations.
Cohen’s complaint documents accounts of Oakland City Hall and City Council staff enabling a hostile environment towards pro-Israel activists, such as failures by part of their staff to maintain decorum as required under municipal codes; failure to punish disruptions by the anti-Israel mob in violation of pro-Israel activists’ civil rights; failure to afford equal rights and protections to pro-Israel speakers; and failure to prevent civil rights violations.
In addition, it appears that the City Council staff permitted “yellow-vested “security” people with no endowed official security function to restrict who could enter the municipal building, when they could enter, and asserted control over ingress into the building in numerous ways. The presence of unofficial security personnel on government property, assuming authority without normal systems of accountability and openly permitted by the City Council and City Hall staff appears to have been unlawful and also requires investigation.
Yael Lerman, director of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department noted, “November 27th marked a dark day for Oakland, California. City council and staff used their positions of power to suppress the civil rights of pro-Israel activists and afforded special treatment to a mob that actively sought to intimidate Jews. This is especially egregious in the wake of Hamas’ massacre of October 7, 2023, in Israel. Instead of asserting moral leadership, the Oakland City Council shamefully welcomed and perpetuated activist-driven antisemitism.”
At a time when antisemitism continues to run rife nationwide, StandWithUs requests accountability from Administrator Johnson and Attorney General Rob Bonta and equal protections for its Jewish and pro-Israel constituents.
StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, nonprofit, and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.
Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films, and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs throughout the U.S., Israel, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands.
For the last eleven years, StandWithUs has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator and GuideStar, two charity watchdog groups that assess hundreds of thousands of charities in the United States.