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The following op-ed was written by Dillon Hosier, chief executive officer of the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN):
Many in West Hollywood and in surrounding neighborhoods may be familiar with that city’s “Jewish” problem from the last election.
In the lead-up to West Hollywood’s 2022 General Election, it was discovered that a high-profile candidate, now Vice Mayor Chelsea Byers, had kept hidden a uniquely obsessive and markedly antisemitic history of anti-Israel activism, all while being quietly supported behind the scenes by several prominent figures, including and especially Mayor John Erickson.
The presence of John Erickson and Chelsea Byers on the West Hollywood City Council has led to a marked departure from the City’s long history of recognizing the important role that Jewish people have played in the City’s vibrant history, including Russian Jews, Persian Jews, and Israeli immigrants. The City’s longtime vocal and substantive support for Israel and Jewish people has all but disappeared with Erickson and Byers on the council.
Following the recent October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel, and with another West Hollywood election mere months away, new details about the City’s Mayor, and Vice Mayor spreading pro-Hamas propaganda and funding local protests, bring fresh scrutiny and concern.
“Six Whiny Jews”
Those of us who had concerns about Vice Mayor Byers in the last election were assured, indeed promised, by her allies and surrogates that her views had changed and that her previous commentary about Israel and Jewish people reflected outdated views that had since matured. In fact, so ardent were her defenders that West Hollywood Mayor John Erickson is quoted as saying at the time, “I am not going to let six whiny Jews affect this election” for then-candidate Byers.
The statement by Mayor Erickson is a stunning expression of antisemitism and a shocking admission of an effort to disenfranchise members of West Hollywood’s Jewish constituency while minimizing our community’s very legitimate concerns.
Mayor Erickson’s commitment to defending his Vice Mayor’s antisemitism has been evident in his interactions with community members. He is well known to dismiss Jewish and Israeli constituents, often linking our past electoral concerns to official City business, attempting to hold our community hostage, chilling free speech, and discouraging us from speaking up in the future.
And then October 7th happened.
West Hollywood is in ‘Beautiful Trouble’
For many of us, the morning of October 7th forever changed our lives. In what would be the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust, our community here in West Hollywood was left reeling with the news and images coming out of Israel. After all, Los Angeles is home to the largest number of Israelis outside of Israel, and many make their home in and around West Hollywood.
Following the October 7th terrorist attacks, most members of the West Hollywood City Council made high-profile condemnations.
The notable exceptions?
Mayor John Erickson, who has stayed largely silent except for a few social media posts, and Vice Mayor Byers, who has remained silent in her official capacity but has been highly active via her nonprofit platform, “Beautiful Trouble,” spreading pro-Hamas propaganda and generally supporting the attacks.
For those unfamiliar, according to research released during the last election, Vice Mayor Byers is the key professional behind the operations at “Beautiful Trouble” handling incoming revenue, new hires, and more, with her official West Hollywood City Council bio reflecting her central role at the organization and with no evidence of any other individuals operating the day-to-day functions of the organization. A preemptive disclaimer for those desperate enough to attempt to create distance between Vice Mayor Byers and her nonprofit.
Horrific New Details About Byers’ Radical Activism
On October 8th, the day after the Hamas attacks and before Israel fired a single shot in response, Vice Mayor Byers posted, “The Palestinian people have been enduring systematic repression, colonization, and ethnic cleansing since the occupation of Palestine in 1948. Historic Palestine has been torn into scattered pieces of land disconnected from each other. Free Palestine.”
And just days later, on October 13th, Vice Mayor Byers added, “We reaffirm our solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for liberation and people everywhere struggling against oppression and colonization.”
Not one mention of the Jewish children and Holocaust survivors slaughtered by terrorists.
Not one mention of the Jewish hostages.
Not one mention of the systematic and premeditated rape and sexual violence targeting Jewish women and girls.
Instead, Vice Mayor Byers said, “For over 75 years, the Palestinian people have been resisting relentless Zionist dehumanization, ethnic cleansing, forced displacement, land theft, and colonization.”
For Vice Mayor Byers, then, there can only be one conclusion:
Rape is “resistance.”
Killing Holocaust survivors is “resistance.”
Cutting a fetus out of a pregnant Jewish woman and burning it alive in front of the mother is “resistance.”
This is from the Vice Mayor of the City of West Hollywood. And it gets worse.
Through her nonprofit, Vice Mayor Byers is offering grants of up to a thousand dollars for “disruptive and creative actions” to “end violence, apartheid and settler colonialism in Palestine/Israel.” Suppose you’ve been caught in traffic thanks to demonstrators blocking a road or a freeway or have been subjected to some other form of violence and vandalism surrounding a protest. In that case, it might have been sponsored by “Beautiful Trouble” and West Hollywood Vice Mayor, Chelsea Byers.
Demanding Accountability and Change
Even if Jewish and Israel-related issues are not part of your central concerns, the statements made by Vice Mayor Byers should concern all West Hollywood residents.
In other posts, Byers refers to law enforcement and police as “domestic terrorists” and “soldiers of capitalism,” extreme positions even for West Hollywood.
The events of October 7th have served to bring clarity to where one stands on matters related to Western values and liberalism, terrorism, and basic decency. In West Hollywood, we no longer have to wonder where Mayor Erickson and Vice Mayor Byers stand on issues related to the Jewish community and Israel; they have been clear.
Many have tried to get Erickson and Byers to moderate their positions and recognize the harm they have done, to no avail. Both should be held accountable in their respective upcoming elections. Vice Mayor Byers won her election in 2022 by a slim margin of only 54 votes and is up again in 2026, and this coming November 2024, Mayor Erickson is up for reelection.
Residents and other stakeholders should make it clear to Erickson-Byers, and all of our elected leaders at every level of government, that West Hollywood values authentic efforts to promote inclusivity, mutual respect, and representation. As we approach the upcoming elections, we must remain engaged and informed, rejecting divisiveness and working towards building a real community that upholds the dignity and rights of all its members.
Councilmembers John Erickson and Chelsea Byers were elected Mayor and Vice Mayor by their council colleagues at West Hollywood’s December 18th council meeting. They will be installed at the Council meeting scheduled for January 16th.