Gavin Newsom cancels tree lighting ceremony amid pro-Palestinian protests

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled an in-person tree lighting ceremony at the state Capitol on Tuesday ahead of pro-Palestinian protests, citing concerns about the safety of children and families as the ongoing fighting continues to divide Democrats.

The cautionary move comes less than a month after pro-Palestinian protesters in Sacramento overwhelmed security guards and poured into the California Democratic Convention, forcing Democrats to temporarily halt their meetings.

Local Palestinian rights groups had planned to march on the tree lighting ceremony, with calls for a cease-fire in fighting that began following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

A spokesperson for the governor said in a statement that the governor and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom will hold the ceremony virtually and distribute a pre-recorded version Wednesday.

“As we continue to see protests across the country impacting the safety of events of all scales — and for the safety and security of all participating members and guests including children and families — the ceremony this year will be virtual,” the governor’s spokesperson said.

The California Highway Patrol, which oversees Capitol security, confirmed the cancellation to POLITICO but did not give a reason, referring questions to the governor’s office.

Once the governor's event had been canceled, the Palestinian groups that organized the march obtained a permit to hold a 300-person demonstration near the site of the 67-foot-tall holiday tree, CHP Officer Paul Moos told POLITICO.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has sparked division within California’s Democratic party, with progressives increasingly pushing for resolutions in support of Palestinians. The issue has roiled liberal cities, including Oakland, where city council members last month declined to condemn Hamas and where, on Tuesday, teachers organized a “teach-in” criticizing Israel.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization,” the governor wrote on social media in response to the Oakland City Council vote. “They must be called out for what they are: evil.”

Newsom in October made a brief stop in Tel Aviv on his way to China to meet with Israeli officials and offer California’s support. The state is working to ship medical supplies to support humanitarian relief efforts in Israel and Gaza.