Dueling Naperville protests on Middle East crisis turn rowdy

Two Naperville rallies - one pro-Israeli and the other pro-Palestinian - held less than half a mile apart on Sunday sparked a couple of heated confrontations between some members as the two sides crossed paths.

Videos circulating on social media show brief clashes between a few Jewish protesters driving around in cars and some counterprotesters on the Palestinian side marching the streets of downtown Naperville.

A small group apparently attending the Palestinian rally can be seen in a video banging on cars and exchanging heated words with Jewish protesters. A group grabbed an Israeli flag and attempted, apparently unsuccessfully, to burn it.

Naperville police cited three people for disorderly conduct for banging on car windows and are investigating the attempted flag burning and another report of a rock thrown at a car, said police Cmdr. Michaus Williams.

No one was injured in the clashes. Protesters on both sides claim they were provoked by the other group's cursing and shouting death threats.

"It's all about perception," Williams said. "There's always three sides to the story. Somewhere in the middle there is the truth."

Daniel Raab, 21, of Naperville, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, helped organize the pro-Israel rally that drew roughly 50 people in front of city hall.

Raab, his two younger sisters and a friend decided to drive through downtown an hour after their rally ended waving an Israeli flag when they came across participants of the Palestinian rally at an intersection.

Within seconds their car was surrounded, said Raab, who attempted to call 911 while his sister, Nina, shot a video shortly after the encounter. In it, she sounds hysterical, though none of the counterprotesters can be seen near their car.

"We realized people were beginning to follow us," Raab said. "They were shaking the car, pounding on the windows. Luckily, traffic began to move."

Raab said he was fearful for their safety. Once out of the area, they stopped to report the incident to the next police officer they could find.

Sara Khasawneh, 18, of Naperville, a graduate of Waubonsie Valley High School, was one of the youth organizers of the rally for Palestine held at Rotary Hill. She said the confrontation between the two groups lasted less than 30 seconds.

"It was defused pretty quickly, and then we continued marching for the rest of our route," she said.

Khasawneh said the roughly 1,500 people of varying ages, ethnicities and religions who attended the protest had been cautioned against engaging with pro-Israeli rally participants, burning flags or using antisemitic language.

"We still condemn these actions no matter the provocation," she said. "These actions are not a part of our movement ... are not what we stand for."

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