Larry Elder cuts short Venice homeless encampment tour after hostile confrontation

VENICE, CA. September 8, 2021: A homeless man takes a swing at a staff member for Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder during a tour in Venice Wednesday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
A homeless man takes a swing at a staff member for Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder during a tour in Venice Wednesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Larry Elder’s scheduled tour of homeless encampments in Venice ended shortly after it began Wednesday morning, with the leading Republican in the gubernatorial recall race hastily exiting in an SUV after being angrily confronted by a group of homeless people and advocates.

Elder — who had arrived in his new “Recall Express” campaign bus shortly after casting his ballot at a voting center across town — spent roughly 12 minutes in the neighborhood, with his departure hastened by what appeared to be an egg thrown in the candidate's direction and a physical assault on his staff.

“It kind of glanced his head,” an Elder campaign staffer said of the object.

A woman in a gorilla mask riding a bicycle threw the small white object past Elder’s head, as seen in a video posted on Twitter by Spectrum News reporter Kate Cagle. The woman appeared to be white, Elder is Black, and ape characterizations have been used as a racist trope for centuries.

Moments later, the woman took a swing at a man who appeared to be part of Elder's team. The man was hit by at least one other heckler just before Elder was escorted into the SUV.

"Today I kicked off the Recall Express bus tour," Elder tweeted Wednesday evening. "Before we even left Los Angeles, my security detail was physically assaulted, shot with a pellet gun, and hit with projectiles. The intolerant left will not stop us. We will recall Gavin Newsom. We will save California."

Elder’s visit to Venice began auspiciously enough, with a handful of Gold’s Gym patrons gathering outside the black-and-red campaign bus to cheer the candidate as he stepped off.

“Maybe we’ll try and get a little workout in, but I’d really like to meet him,” a man sipping a green smoothie in a “Fitness Outlaws” tank top said excitedly into his cellphone as the bus pulled up across the street from the gym. The gym-goer was a fan of “everything Larry represents,” he said.

Larry Elder is escorted by a security guard.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder is escorted by a security guard as a few homeless people yell during a tour in Venice Wednesday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The heckling began a few minutes later, as Soledad Ursua and Chie Lunn, members of the Venice Neighborhood Council Public Health & Safety Committee, walked Elder down Sunset Avenue.

The community advocates had taken fellow candidate Caitlyn Jenner on a similar tour earlier this summer, when a single heckler had followed but not substantially disrupted the tour.

The confrontation with Elder heated up as the group turned onto encampment-filled 3rd Avenue, with a handful of people circling the group, screaming profanities at Elder and shouting at him to “get the hell out of here.”

“He has no business down here,” Sarah Duke, a homeless woman who is 3½ months pregnant and lives in the nearby encampment, said just before Elder’s abrupt departure. “If you ain’t going to help us, move ... on.”

At a campaign stop later that afternoon at Brent’s Deli in Northridge, Elder received a far warmer reception, with patrons clapping, cheering and filming as Elder walked around the restaurant booths.

The candidate spent about five minutes in the restaurant before climbing back aboard the campaign bus. The candidate and his entourage departed Northridge with a stack of paper plates and a to-go order of eight to 10 Reuben sandwiches, according to the deli’s cashier.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.