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Cleveland Area Man Charged with Assaulting Jewish Couple at a Pro-Palestinian Rally

A Westlake man was charged with assault and obstruction of justice following an incident at a pro-Palestinian rally May 14 at Crocker Park in Westlake, in which a Cleveland Heights couple who were counter-protesting said they were assaulted.

Rocky River Municipal Court mailed Alec Popivker a criminal protection order dated Aug. 31 showing Mohammed Ayman Sbeih, 20, was ordered to stay away from the Popivkers. Sbeih was arraigned Aug. 31 in Rocky River Municipal Court and released on personal recognizance.

The terms of the protective order include Sbeih not enter the residence, business, place of employment, day care center or child care provider of the victims, that he stay at least 500 feet from the victims, that he not use any form of electronic surveillance of the victims, that he not cause or encourage anyone to do any act prohibited by the order, that he not possess, use or carry any deadly weapon while the order is in effect, and that he not use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs.

Both the assault charge and the obstruction of justice charges are first-degree misdemeanors. Each carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum jail sentence of six months.

Neither Sbeih nor his lawyer, Ali Mustafa of Fairview Park, returned a call from the Cleveland Jewish News.

Westlake City Law Director Michael P. Maloney told the CJN Sept. 10 he had not contacted the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the incident, adding, “I think that remains to be decided.”

Maloney said it is unlikely additional arrests will be made in the case.

“It’s extremely difficult to identify whose who and who did what,” Maloney said. “We’re relying heavily on videos, … most of which aren’t always clear. We saw enough that we could charge the crime. We did.”

Popivker told the CJN Sept. 9 he has since reached out to members of the Islamic Center of Cleveland in Westlake and proposed having a public debate in Cleveland about Israel and Palestinian issues, which has not come to fruition.

“To me, it was a typical lynching,” Popivker said. “We got attacked before we even got there.”

Popivker and his wife, Sarah Nurit Gammone Popivker, were at the rally, which took place as Israel and Gaza were at war.

Both were injured, Alec Popivker told the CJN at the time, with his wife bleeding from the temple having been hit with a flagpole. The protesters burned his yarmulke and his elbow was bruised after he was knocked down, he said. Popivker said he never recovered his cellphone, wallet or a hat that said “I love Israel.”

Popivker told the CJN Sept. 9 he was surprised there has been just one arrest in the assault.

The incidents were caught on video and were listed in the police log as an assault and hate crime.