As part of a nationwide day of action, thousands of people from all over New York City gathered today in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to demand an end to the U.S.-sponsored genocide in Palestine. Organized by Within Our Lifetime and other organizations, the march was made up of pro-Palestinian activists, union members, leftists, and many families from the Palestinian and Middle Eastern communities. Jewish activists held signs that said “Jew against Zionism” and “never again is now.” Children held “free Palestine” signs while clutching their mothers’ hands. Groups of teenagers jumped up and down, chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Bay Ridge is a Middle Eastern neighborhood and many of those in attendance have family in Gaza. This is life or death for their families; the pain of settler colonialism and the apartheid state of Israel runs deep.
As with the other pro-Palestine protests staged in the days following the start of Israel’s brutal offensive on the people of Gaza, NYPD showed up in full force — with the infamous Strategic Response Group on duty and helicopters flying low over the march — to intimidate protesters and corral the march. As the mobilization continued into the night and the numbers of protesters dwindled, NYPD moved in on the peaceful march, pushing, shoving, and surrounding the marchers. At the time of writing, at least a dozen protesters have been arrested for standing up against the murder of children in Gaza and the genocide of Palestinians. Among those arrested was a 15-year-old girl who was marching calmly down the street and an Al Jazeera reporter. Videos on social media show people screaming in fear as the police plow through the crowd, dozens of police officers swarming individual protesters. Another video shows a young woman screaming as the police lift her off the ground to detain her in a police bus.
The march was convened as Israel continues to bomb and murder Palestinians. Over 4,300 people have been killed in airstrikes and one million people have been displaced, their homes and neighborhoods reduced to rubble. Israel’s military is using white phosphorus weapons in the attacks, which burn people to the bone. Israel has imposed a total siege on Gaza where food, fuel, and water are being blockaded; what severely limited resources have been allowed to enter Gaza just today are tightly restricted. This has produced massive suffering, death, and further destruction. And it occurs with the full support and funding of the U.S. government and the explicit support of President Joe Biden, who visited Israel this week.
In New York, the governing Democrats have criminalized and maligned Palestinian activists, equating anti-Zionism with terrorism and spreading Islamophobia. Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, and local officials have publicly condemned any pro-Palestinian mobilizations. Adams in particular has gone to great lengths to claim that the anti-Zionist movement is antisemitic, calling protesters “extremists” and the protests “disgusting”; this flies in the face of the tens of thousands of Jewish people all over the city, the country, and the world who have marched, gotten arrested, and who are saying clearly: “Not in our name.”
Last week, over 60 activists from Jewish Voice for Peace and other organizations were arrested for sitting in the road in front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s house; on Friday, over 150 more activists were arrested at a similar demonstration in Manhattan.
Meanwhile Adams has promised to direct more funding and resources to NYPD, putting out more patrols in neighborhoods across the city to terrorize and intimidate New Yorkers. It is clear that statements from the Governor, Mayor, and local officials have given a green light to NYPD to repress the protests, which have grown steadily with each passing day of attacks in Palestine. Now NYPD has attacked a peaceful demonstration of pro-Palestinian activists and community members, violently arresting a dozen people.
This has meant a witch-hunt against all those who speak out against Israel’s occupation and genocidal attacks in Palestine, with activists, students, and workers across the country targeted for openly supporting Palestinian liberation. On October 13, a councilwoman from South Brooklyn, Inna Vernikov, attended a Zionist counter-protest in Brooklyn College with a visible gun.
The atmosphere of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian hate led to the murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old boy, in Illinois last week. Many Middle Eastern activists have observed that the atmosphere in the United States is similar to the months following 9/11, with Middle Easterners maligned as terrorists and hate crimes against them increasing.
The 10,000 people in Brooklyn join the millions of people in the United States and all over the world protesting the attacks on Gaza and for a free Palestine. From London — where 300,000 people took the streets today — to Germany and France — where thousands of protesters have defied and pushed back government bans on pro-Palestine demonstrations; and in the hundreds of thousands of people protesting across the Middle East in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and other countries, an anti-Zionist movement is emerging all over the world. This includes Palestinian-led groups like Within Our Lifetime, demanding the right of return to Palestine. It includes anti-Zionist Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, who engaged in a direct action at the Capitol on October 18 demanding an immediate ceasefire.
While increasing voices are speaking out for Palestine, there have been attempts by college campuses, by bosses, by politicians, and cops to silence them. It is in this context that the NYPD was empowered to repress and arrest peaceful protesters who are speaking out against genocide. This is a blatant attempt to scare anti-Zionist protesters into complacency. It is a blatant attempt to keep us from denouncing the murder of Palestinians and the occupation. And it is a shameful attack on a protest overwhelmingly made up of individuals and families mourning loved ones in Gaza. The institutions and the government are attacking basic democratic rights and using the media to demonize the pro-Palestinian movement, much like any other authoritarian government.
In the spirit of the protesters across the world in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East who are standing up to their governments to denounce the horrific occupation and genocidal attacks in Palestine by Israel with the support of the great imperialist powers of the world, we won’t be intimidated by attacks from the police and politicians who hope to curb the protests.
We must immediately call for the release of the protesters that were arrested in Brooklyn tonight and that all charges against them be dropped. And this must be part of a struggle against all repression of anti-Zionist activists in the streets, on college campuses, and at our jobs. We must protect and defend our right to protest. If they touch one of us, they touch all of us.