U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar faced hundreds of protesters Saturday outside a Southern California fundraising event for the local chapter of a major advocacy group representing Muslim-Americans.
“Burn the Quran!," “Ilhan Omar, go to hell!” and “Shame on you, terrorists!" were among some of the messages shouted outside a Woodland Hills hotel where the Minnesota Democrat spoke at a fundraiser for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Greater Los Angeles, according to a report. The town is about 25 miles northwest of downtown L.A.
The protesters lined a sidewalk area, where they waved Israeli flags and denounced the freshman congresswoman over recent remarks that some have described as anti-Semitic, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. The atmosphere was a mix of dancing and music mixed with the vitriolic comments against Omar, the report said.
Omar, a 37-year-old immigrant from Somalia who came to the U.S. with her family in 1995, has faced a storm of criticism from pro-Israel politicians and groups after her February tweet that said “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” in reference to the support that some U.S. lawmakers have offered to Israel.
The freshman Democrat drew scorn from Republicans and some in her own party. She later apologized and clarified her criticism of the Israeli government.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Being opposed to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic," she continued. "I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same."
A handful of counterprotesters also appeared outside the event to voice support for Omar.
The event at the fourth annual Valley Banquet, titled “Advancing Justice: Empowering Valley Muslims,” was sold out and closed to the public. The Los Angeles Police Department told City News Service that it had an unspecified number of officers working the event.
“We don’t disclose the numbers,” Officer Sal Ramirez told City News Service.
Omar's visit to Southern California is expected to continue Sunday, as she is scheduled to attend a private meet-and-greet in Irvine, according to a flyer for the event.
Her appearance was one of two political events in the region Saturday. In Los Angeles, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, visited a mosque to commemorate the victims of the March 15 mass shooting in New Zealand, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Your background is different than mine,” Sanders told about 200 Muslims at the Islamic Center of Southern California. “What a joy it is to share that.”
Later in the day, he spoke to an estimated 12,000 people at a downtown Los Angeles rally.
“As president of the United States, I will not have kind words to say about authoritarian leaders around the world who espouse bigotry and hatred,” Sanders told the crowd. “Together we will make the United States the leader in the world in the fight for democracy and human rights.”