Sunday, June 16

Cities around the U.S. beef up security ahead of anticipated protests Friday


With renewed fighting in the Middle East, law enforcement agencies in cities around the country, including in California, beefed up security in anticipation of widespread demonstrations and possible violence Friday after a former Hamas chief called for protests across the “Arab and Islamic world” in support of Palestine.

While officials say no credible threats have been identified in the past few days, police departments from Los Angeles to New York have increased patrols out of an abundance of caution, in some areas focusing on houses of worship, schools and major transit hubs.

In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said it is aware of recent calls to action regarding the conflict in the Middle East.

“We have no information of any specific or credible threats to the City of Los Angeles but we are continuing to assess the situation for any potential impact to our communities,” the statement said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued an identical statement, adding, “We are conducting extra patrol checks and supplementing additional personnel from detective division and specialized units to have high visibility in strategic locations throughout the county. Additionally, we are reaching out to our local religious communities to reassure them during this tumultuous time.”

The San Francisco Police Department said there were no threats of violence Friday morning, but “officers are making passing calls by places of worship and other community centers that have expressed concerns.”

“We are on high alert for any suspicious or illegal activity,” the SFPD said in a statement.

The heightened patrols come amid the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas, which was sparked when the terrorist group stormed across the border early Saturday morning from Gaza into Southern Israel, killing hundreds and taking hostages in a brazen attack that shocked the world and plunged the two sides into the most heated conflict in years. Israel has launched an around-the-clock assault on parts of Gaza since then and sealed the borders to the land that is home to nearly 2 million inhabitants.

Israel’s military ordered more than 1 million people in Northern Gaza to head to the territory’s southern region within 24 hours Friday ahead of an expected ground invasion.

In the U.S., the surge in resources follows a call to action from Khaled Meshaal, the former chief of Hamas, who urged followers to launch protests across the Muslim world Friday in a video sent to Reuters, the news agency reported. Meshaal, who is based in Qatar and heads Hamas’ diaspora office, also called for neighboring countries to join in the war against Israel.

“[We must] head to the squares and streets of the Arab and Islamic world on Friday,” Meshaal said in a recorded statement sent to Reuters.

Concerns about safety have also spread to some college campuses in the Golden State on Friday. Stanford Law School moved its classes to Zoom as tensions rise on the campus, Theo Baker, an investigations reporter for the Stanford Daily said in a post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. Baker tweeted that the move was cautionary, and “the message signed by interim Dean Robert Weisberg says: we do not believe that SLS is facing any substantial internal or external threats at this time.”

Stanford Law School did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Heightened anxieties about protests and calls to actions have led to a surge of resources in cities around the country. Police officers fanned out across New York City, and helicopters patrolled the skies over Manhattan.

In a security briefing Thursday evening, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said there were “no credible or specific threats against our city,” but added that he directed the city’s police department to deploy to schools and houses of worship “to ensure New Yorkers are safe.”

An NYPD spokesperson said that all officers who were scheduled for duty Friday were to “report in uniform.”

No credible threats have been made in Boston, but police said in a statement they have increased the presence of uniformed officers around religious and cultural institutions.

Chicago police said in a statement it is “paying special attention to synagogues and mosques” as it monitors possible protests.

“The Chicago Police Department stands alongside all the innocent victims affected by this heartbreaking and horrific situation,” the statement said.

Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava posted on X on Thursday night that the city was preparing for possible activity Friday by adding more officers to schools, synagogues, mosques, Jewish community centers and city infrastructure. She added that the city was partially activating its emergency response protocol, which allows for better flow of communication during a crisis.

In Detroit, which is home to the country’s largest Arabic-speaking population, police said they are “coordinating with our local, state and federal partners to identify and assess any threats to the city of Detroit. At this time, there are no credible threats.”

Staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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