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President Biden and First Lady arrive in SoCal for fundraising swing; severe traffic anticipated

Protests erupt as Pres. Biden visits LA for series of fundraising events
Protests erupt as Pres. Biden visits LA for series of fundraising events 03:51

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden flew to the Los Angeles area Friday for a fundraising swing that kicked off with a star-studded event in Holmby Hills and continues Saturday with a campaign reception and fundraiser at an undisclosed location.

On Friday, the president was greeted by celebrities, several California elected officials and "Free Gaza" protesters, estimated to be about 1,000 people, outside the Holmby Hills fundraiser.

The protesters had gathered Friday afternoon to condemn U.S. funding of Israeli military strikes in Gaza with one holding a sign that read, "No votes for mass murderer."

At one point an unlawful assembly and dispersal order was issued following unruly actions by some protesters, including throwing objects at officers and passing vehicles, according to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore.

Pro-Palestine rally near a home where President Biden was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA - December 08: People hold signs and flags during a pro-Palestinian rally at Holmby Park in Los Angeles Friday, Dec 8, 2023. President Biden was scheduled to attend a fundraiser at a home near the park. Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

 "The crowd slowly dispersed and no arrests were made, no use of force, and no officers were injured," Moore said.

 Protesters also tagged several Westwood businesses.

The president's 11-minute speech at Friday's fundraising event, where tickets ranged from $1,000 to $500,000, focused mainly on the threat he claims former President Donald Trump poses to democracy.

"Literally, I believe, the future of American democracy is at stake," Biden said at the home of former U.S. ambassador to Spain James Costos and designer Michael Smith. "The greatest threat Trump poses is to our democracy, because if we lost that, we lose everything.

"We will be one of those generations that can say, "We saved democracy."

Polls have shown Trump holds an overwhelming lead in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Other polls have shown he has slight lead over Biden in the general election race.

Biden also discussed his administration's economic successes and confirming federal judges.

First Lady Jill Biden, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, were among those in attendance.

Singer Lenny Kravitz performed at the star-studded event, which CBS News confirmed was hosted by designer Michael Smith and former U.S. ambassador to Spain James Costos will be hosting the event, which will include a performance by Lenny Kravitz.

Not surprisingly, Republican Party officials condemned Biden's fundraising swing.

"Today, Biden will listen to the concerns of Hollywood elitists instead of ordinary Californians suffering a violent crime epidemic, increased cost of living and Gavin Newsom's record $68 billion deficit," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ben Petersen said in a statement. "No wonder Biden is dragging down Democrats in competitive House races."

California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement Biden's approval level in California is a "record lows."

President Biden arrives at LAX 03:34

"It seems even deep-blue California can't get behind his disastrous agenda of high inflation, open borders, weak foreign policy, failing schools, and rampant crime," Patterson said. "No amount of time spent rubbing elbows with Hollywood elites while bragging about the imaginary merits of `Bidenomics' will change the fact that Joe Biden's presidency is an abject failure."

Biden is scheduled to depart Los Angeles early Sunday afternoon, bound for Washington

Biden arrived at Los Angeles International Airport around 5 p.m. from Las Vegas where he spoke on how his "Investing in America Agenda" is advancing his vision for world-class infrastructure across the nation.

Biden quickly walked out of Air Force One and entered a military helicopter for a flight to Santa Monica, where he then entered a motorcade to attend the fundraiser.

First lady Jill Biden arrived in the area first, landing early Friday afternoon at Hollywood Burbank Airport. She traveled directly to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to tour research laboratories as part of the White House Initiative on Women's Health Research. She toured the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center and Smidt Heart Institute, according to the White House.

"Research on women's health has been underfunded for decades and many conditions that mostly and only affect women or affect women differently have received limited attention like those debilitating migraines and undiagnosed heart attacks," Biden told a crowd of about 300 people following her tour.

She added that because of those funding gaps, "we understand far too little about these conditions and how to help the millions of women who struggle with them. And these gaps are even greater for communities that historically have been excluded from research, including women of color and women with disabilities."

The White House Initiative on Women's Health Research is aimed at "galvanizing the federal government and the private and philanthropic sectors to spur innovation, unleash transformative investment to close research gaps, and improve women's health," according to the White House.

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