LOS ANGELES - "Kanye is right about the Jews."
That's what one of three banners hung over the busy 405 Freeway in Los Angeles read over the weekend.
Another banner said, "Honk if you know." A third banner promoted a video platform that streams antisemitic content operated by the Goyim Defense League, a network of antisemitic conspiracy theorists.
Several of the activists were photographed making "Heil Hitler" salutes on the overpass on Saturday. The sign is a reference to recent antisemitic statements made by rapper Ye — also known as Kanye West.
- Kanye West's team hands out 'White Lives Matter' shirts on LA's Skid Row
- Antisemitic flyers left on vehicles at The Grove
- Vehicles covered in antisemitic messages drive through Beverly Hills
"So this group is very well known to ADL and to law enforcement. It's a group that peddles their hate in this community throughout Southern California and across this nation. They use various tactics like you see with the leaflets, the banner that was dropped on the 405. Just earlier this year, they drove a bus through Beverly Hills. These propagandists, their goal is to provoke a response, to terrorize the communities they're in. This time, particularly with the banner drop on the 405, however, it's different," explained Jeffrey Abrams, Anti-Defamation League Regional Director. "These hate groups are now leveraging the anti-Semitic tropes that Kanye West has been peddling on social media, on interviews, broadcast interviews. And so these groups that peddle in this hate are now leveraging Kanye, not just Kanye's imprimatur, but that as well, his millions of followers and his business partners, companies like The Gap and like Adidas."
The recent rise in antisemitism prompted reactions from several high-profile figures including local officials and celebrities alike.
"Anti-semitism in any form is deplorable. In person. Online. Doesn’t matter where. It’s hate and it’s unacceptable," actor and producer Reese Witherspoon wrote in a tweet Sunday night. "Completely understand why my Jewish friends/ colleagues are frightened for their families. This is a very scary time."
"I support my Jewish friends and the Jewish people," comedian and actor Amy Schumer said in an Instagram post.
Kloe Kardashian reposted Schumer's words late Sunday across her social media.
"L.A. is a city of belonging, not hate,"Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote in a tweet condemning "this weekend’s antisemitic incidents."
"Jewish Angelenos should always feel safe," he said. "There is no place for discrimination or prejudice in Los Angeles. And we will never back down from the fight to expose and eliminate it."
"Anti semitic flyers thrown on our streets again, Banners on the 405 Freeway, Banners covering up Billboards, Kayne West, Vans driving with antisemitism and racist plastered slogans, Schools having Jew free zones. ENOUGH HATE meant 2 silence us. I will speak LOUDER #Antisemitism," Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse tweeted Sunday. Bosse is the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
"The poison of hate has no place anywhere, and the rise in anti-Semitism in so many places, including Los Angeles, is deeply disturbing. It's hard to fathom the malevolence required to put such vile words and gestures on public display, as well as the bigoted mindset required to think this way in the first place," said Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell. "These acts are part of an alarming trend of abhorrent verbal and literal attacks against Jews here and everywhere. History has shown that ignorance, bigotry and hatred begets violence. Those of us who believe in and celebrate our pluralism and diversity must speak loudly against this. We absolutely cannot be silent."
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. said he was also "horrified by the vile antisemitism on display in L.A. this weekend."
"Tragically it shows the power some hold to amplify hateful language, and how quickly they can persuade others to express their own bigotry," he said, appearing to reference Ye's recent comments, without naming the rapper. "We must condemn hate wherever we see it — immediately and forcefully."
Following Ye's antisemitic comments on social media, the rapper's Twitter and Instagram accounts were temporarily restricted.
The social networks said West's posts violated their policies. In one post on Twitter, Ye said he would soon go "death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE," according to internet archive records, making an apparent reference to the U.S. defense readiness condition scale known as DEFCON.
- Kanye West wearing White Lives Matter shirt during his Yeezy show in Paris
- Kanye West addresses 'White Lives Matter' controversy in interview with FOX News' Tucker Carlson
- Kanye West's team hands out 'White Lives Matter' shirts on LA's Skid Row
- Kanye West’s Twitter account locked two days after he was suspended on Instagram
Last week, West's team was seen handing out the artist's controversial "White Lives Matter" T-shirts on Los Angeles' Skid Row. In the video, someone is heard shouting "Courtesy of Kanye West," as the shirts are handed out. The shirts have pictures of former Pope John Paul II with the words "siguiremos tu ejemplo," Spanish for "we will follow your example," and "Juan Pablo II" on the front. The "White lives matter" slogan appears on the back.
As the rapper faced mounting backlash over his comments, it was announced last week that Ye had agreed to acquire the conservative-oriented social media app Parler.
More companies have continued to cut ties with West, including Balenciaga. Ye had collaborated in several areas with Balenciaga and its artistic director, Demna Gvasalia. The label has also had an active relationship with Kim Kardashian, Ye’s ex-wife, who has appeared in their advertising campaigns and credits her former husband with introducing her to the brand.
In recent weeks, Ye has ended Yeezy’s association with Gap and has told Bloomberg that he plans to cut ties with his corporate suppliers. JPMorganChase and Ye have ended their business relationship — although the banking breakup was in the works even before Ye’s antisemitic comments.
Meanwhile, pressure mounts on Adidas to follow suit and sever ties with West. Adidas had already stated that their distribution deal of West's Yeezy line was "under review" but the company continues to remain silent on its status with West weeks after that statement.
The #BoycottAdidas hashtag was trending over the weekend, with several outspoken celebrities like Rosanna Arquette, Josh Gad, and David Schwimmer calling on Adidas to drop West.
The Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments said they were investigating antisemitic fliers that were distributed in Beverly Hills. It’s believed the flyers and antisemitic banner on the 405 freeway are linked to the same hate group.
The flyers were left in an area north of Sunset Boulevard and west of Benedict Canyon Drive, according to Sgt. Scott Dibble of the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Leaders of the Jewish Caucus on Monday released a statement condemning West's antisemitic comments.
"We are proud to be Jewish and we will not remain silent when hatred and bigotry are openly directed at our Jewish community or any other community in California," the statement read in part. "Any company - including Adidas - that continues to do business with Kanye West is party to this attack on Jews."
Last year marked an all-time high for such incidents, according to the Anti-Defamation League, with attacks against synagogues and Jewish community centers increasing by 61%, and a total of 2,717 occurrences of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to the ADL.
City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.