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SPPD Investigates Vandalism After City Declines Voting on Ceasefire

By Eric Licas
The Review

This article was updated June 17 to include a statement
from the group SGV Progressive Action.

Members of the South Pasadena City Council who declined to support a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza said they wanted the city to stay out of public discourse raging over the war abroad.
A week later, one of them had their front door kicked in, and the councilwoman suspects pro-Palestinian activists may be connected.
South Pasadena Police Department officers received a report of vandalism at about 1:15 a.m. in the residential area east of Marengo Avenue and south of Monterey Road, Sgt. Andrew DuBois said. Councilwoman Janet Braun told the Review her home was targeted.
“My son woke me up and said ‘Mom call the police. Somebody’s trying to kick down our door,’” Braun said.
Whoever went to her house that morning didn’t get inside, Braun said. Nobody was hurt, although her door was heavily damaged.
The incident took place six days after a contentious City Council meeting on June 5. About 70 local residents and from surrounding communities packed City Hall to deliver impassioned comment on a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
A majority of the speakers that evening was in favor of its adoption. Some pointed out that the neighboring communities of Pasadena and Alhambra have taken similar action, and joining them would send a direct message to House Rep. Judy Chu and other lawmakers.
“We feel like there’s a direct line of communication by expressing our opinions at this level,” South Pasadena resident Dana Barbera said. “And it’s a stronger message, [rather] than individuals writing to our congresspeople, to see that entire cities, at least the majority of the people, vote for something that matters. It’s how our voices get heard.”
Barbera was amid a handful of supporters for a ceasefire resolution who had gathered outside City Hall ahead of the City Council meeting. Some held signs describing Israel’s offensive in Gaza as genocide or carried photos of loved ones killed in the violence.
About 50 feet away, opponents of the proposed resolution set up a table to hand out fliers and pizza. Some waved miniature American and Israeli flags at the corner of Mission Street and Mound Avenue.
“I’m very concerned that our City Council, as opposed to focusing on bike lanes, schools, trash pickup and greenspace in our city, is basically live-action role-playing the State Department,” South Pasadena resident Jesse Duker said. “…this is at best a virtue signal and at worst an anti-Semitic display that whitewashes what Hamas did on Oct. 7.”
During council’s discussion on the matter, Mayor Evelyn Zneimer was one of the most vocal opponents of adopting a ceasefire resolution. In a follow up interview with the Review on Monday, she expressed sadness for the loss of lives in Gaza, especially those of children. But she also characterized Israel as acting in self-defense. She said adopting a resolution, even one that called for the release of hostages and acknowledged Hamas-led attacks last October, would imply to some residents that the city is taking a stance not just for Gaza, but also against Israel.
“In hindsight, I still feel that our decision was correct,” Zneimer said. “We really have no business interfering with foreign policies and foreign wars.”
Braun, meanwhile, said she is deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and noted that she personally supports organizations delivering aid to Palestinians. But like Zneimer, she believes it’s outside the city’s purview to weigh in on the conflict.
“Regardless of my own personal feelings on anything, I cannot speak for the city,” Braun told the Review on Tuesday. “Because, A, most importantly, it’s not within our jurisdiction. And B, it matters that there isn’t just one position on this. Even if there was one position, I don’t think we should be voting on anything with foreign policy implications, but especially on something this contentious.”
During last week’s meeting, Councilman John Primuth issued a brief comment, simply stating “I agree with Councilwoman Braun.” Mayor Pro Tem Jack Donovan declined to speak on the matter.
The ceasefire resolution issue had been added to the meeting’s agenda for discussion last week at the request of Councilman Michael Cacciotti. He said an “overwhelming majority” of South Pasadena residents he had spoken to were in favor of a ceasefire resolution. He also pointed out that the City Council has previously taken similar action in response to Russia’s attempt to annex Ukraine and other issues abroad.
Cacciotti argued that it is well within a local government’s scope of responsibilities to lobby officials at the state and federal level on behalf of its residents. He went on to suggest that getting federal officials to spend less on military aid to Israel could potentially mean more funding available for other initiatives that could more directly benefit people in South Pasadena.
But no other council members were willing to support his motion during the meeting. The proposal to adopt a ceasefire resolution failed without coming to a vote.
Opponents of the item applauded the meeting’s conclusion while an even larger chorus of pro-Palestinian attendees chanted “shame.” One man who interjected while Zneimer was speaking on the matter was escorted out of council chambers by police.
A group of people could be seen pointing at councilmembers in the recording of last week’s session posted on the city’s website. Braun said they were looking directly at her and threatened to come to her house.
She noted that authorities have not identified any suspects in the vandalism of her home. However, she also said police had spotted a suspicious vehicle in her neighborhood over the weekend, but it got away before officers could pull it over. She suspects those events and the comments allegedly directed at her at the end of last week’s meeting may be connected to the vandalism at her home.
“This doesn’t happen to my house very often, or ever,” she said. “So, to kind of have people telling me they’re going to come to my house and come find me, again, that’s just unsettling. I don’t know who did this, but the timing is interesting.”
Cacciotti said he was relieved his colleague, her son and the two guests staying in their home weren’t hurt Tuesday morning. He described whoever might be responsible as “bullies.”
“They’re basically telling Janet the same thing: Don’t express a different point of view or else,” Cacciotti said.
Councilmembers pointed out that their photos were featured in posts from SGV Progressive Action labeling them “complicit in genocide.” In a statement, the group denied any connection to the reported vandalism.
“What we did was practice civil discourse and exercise our free speech rights. People are understandably angry… We cannot control what others say and do, and we discourage violence,” a representative for the account said via DM this morning.
Police said their investigation is in its early stages, and no links to any individual or group have been immediately confirmed.
Meanwhile, online commentary surrounding the council’s decision was also amplified, with one grassroots group putting forth a post denouncing the dissenting members, with their mugshots, and called them “complicit” in enabling genocide.
The vandalism at Braun’s home happened the same evening police cleared out encampments of pro-Palestinian protestors at UCLA. As many as 27 demonstrators were arrested.
Earlier this week, U.S. negotiators had laid out a proposed peace plan to representatives of Hamas and the Israeli government.

Opponents of a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas chat while holding miniature American and Israeli flags at the corner of Mission Street and Mound Avenue near City Hall Wednesday June 5 The item did not garner enough support from councilmembers to pass

First published in the June 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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