DA pursues hate crime charges in El Cerrito protest attacks

DA pursues hate crime charges in El Cerrito protest attacks
Photo of the suspect in the protest attacks courtesy of the El Cerrito Police Department.

A Hayward man is charged with three felonies with special hate crime allegations in connection with alleged assaults at a protest in El Cerrito.

Christopher Khamis Victor Husary, 36, is accused of attacking a woman, taking her Israeli flag and setting in fire during the Jan. 6 demonstration on the Israel-Hamas war. He also allegedly pushed another woman and took another Israel flag that was draped around her shoulders.

At least one of the alleged assaults occurred at the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Carlson Boulevard, where about 100 pro-Palestinian protestors and a small contingent of counter-protestors assembled during the Jan. 6 demonstration.

After a police investigation that included assistance from the public, Husary was identified as the individual responsible, leading to the execution of a search warrant at his Hayward home. Husary was arrested and the search “produced additional evidence that linked him to the charged crimes,” according to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.

Husary is currently in the Martinez Detention Facility and will be arraigned in Contra Costa Superior Court on charges including second degree robbery, grand theft of person, arson of property of another and special allegations for hate crimes.

During the Jan. 6 protest, El Cerrito police said many callers reported incidents of pushing, shoving and language deemed threatening. But police noted Husary’s actions crossed the line to the point of criminal behavior.

In reaction to the case, District Attorney Diana Becton said the First Amendment is “fundamental to our democracy” but “doesn’t protect threats, injury, intimidation, or property damage.”

“Moreover, when such actions stem from biases related to race, gender, religion, ancestry, or national origin, they become hate crimes,” Becton said.