New York City witnessed a massive show of solidarity with the Palestinian people on Friday, as thousands of protesters gathered in Times Square to denounce the Israeli aggression in Gaza and demand an end to the occupation and blockade.
The protesters, many of them young and diverse, waved Palestinian flags, wore keffiyehs, and chanted slogans such as “Free Palestine”, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, and “Israel is a terrorist state”. They also held signs that read “Stop the genocide”, “Boycott Israel“, and “End US aid to Israel”.
The rally was organized by several pro-Palestinian groups, including Al-Awda NY, American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine. It was part of a global day of action that saw similar demonstrations in cities across the world, such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Sydney.
The protesters expressed their outrage at the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at least 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and wounded more than 7,600 since October 7. They also condemned the Israeli ground invasion that began on Friday night, which has displaced more than 1 million Palestinians from northern Gaza.
“We are here to stand with our brothers and sisters in Gaza who are facing a brutal massacre by the Israeli occupation forces,” said Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, who addressed the crowd via video call. “We are here to say enough is enough. We demand an immediate end to the Israeli aggression, an end to the siege of Gaza, an end to the occupation of Palestine, and an end to the apartheid regime that oppresses millions of Palestinians.”
Criticizing US Government
The protesters also criticized the US government for its unconditional support for Israel, which receives $3.8 billion in military aid annually from Washington. They called on President Joe Biden to stop arming Israel and to pressure it to comply with international law and human rights.
“Biden is complicit in this genocide. He is giving Israel the green light to kill our people and destroy our homes,” said Rania Mustafa, a Palestinian-American activist from Brooklyn. “We want him to hear our voices and see our numbers. We want him to know that we will not be silent until he cuts off all aid to Israel and holds it accountable for its crimes.”
The rally was met with a heavy police presence, as hundreds of officers surrounded the protest area and blocked off several streets. The police also kept a distance between the pro-Palestinian protesters and a smaller group of pro-Israel counter-protesters who gathered nearby.
The counter-protesters waved Israeli flags and signs that read “Israel has the right to defend itself” and “Hamas is a terrorist organization”. They also chanted “Am Yisrael Chai” (The people of Israel live) and “We stand with Israel”.
Some clashes and verbal altercations occurred between the two sides, but no major incidents or arrests were reported. The police said they were prepared for any potential violence or disorder.
“We have deployed additional resources and personnel to ensure public safety and order during these demonstrations,” said John Chell, chief of patrol for the New York Police Department. “We respect the right of people to express their views peacefully, but we will not tolerate any hate or acts of violence.”
The rally ended peacefully after several hours, with the protesters dispersing in different directions. Some of them vowed to continue their activism until there is justice and peace for Palestine.
“We are not going anywhere. We will keep coming back until our demands are met,” said Ahmed Ali, a student from Queens. “We are here for Gaza. We are here for Palestine. We are here for humanity.”