A Movement in Motion: Looking Back at a Week of Action as Bombardment of Gaza Continues

From City Hall and the United Nations to The New York Times and an AFL-CIO regional office, Palestinians and their allies rally and march for an end to Israel’s assault on Gaza.

By Hari Adivarekar, Hilal Bahcetepe, Amba Guerguerian, Elias Guerra, Kimberly Izar, Divya Murthy & Eliana Perozof Nov 14, 2023

NEW YORK — New York City this past week showed up in the thousands protesting Israeli excesses and war crimes in Gaza. Students, social justice workers, activists, musicians, community organizations, and children in strollers or their parents’ arms were among the protestors who rallied at various city locations, from City Hall and Manhattan Bridge to the Brooklyn Museum and U.N. headquarters. 

Here’s what the week of action looked like.

Tuesday, Nov. 7

Protesters for Palestine lead a prayer at Barclays Center Nov. 7.
Moses Jeanfrancois

On a balmy Tuesday evening, thousands of New Yorkers protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza walked four miles from City Hall across the Manhattan Bridge to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where over 150 people bent down for the adhan, or call for public prayer. 

The protest, organized by Within Our Lifetime, a Palestinian-led community organization, Decolonize This Place, Existence and Resistance, and Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, marked the first in a planned week of action in New York City. More rallies and protests to get the attention of the city’s political leaders, campuses and the United Nations were lined up over the week. 

Throughout the march, insistent calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel accompanied demands for Palestinian liberation. Nadia Rizik, a Palestinian attendee at the rally, said that the momentum of protests was proof of people’s frustration with the status quo in 2023.

“I think that the US will eventually have to stop funding [Israel] because people are not going to allow it,” said Rizik. “We will pull out of it and [Benjamin] Netanyahu is going to run with his tail between his legs. And I just pray that the Arab leaders are going to step up and do what’s right for their people.” 

The action at City Hall was particularly significant because Tuesday was Election Day in New York City, and several city council seats were up for re-election. Of the 51-member council, five have taken a public stance calling for a ceasefire and criticizing the Israeli occupation. (At the other end of the spectrum, Inna Vernikov, the councilwoman representing the 48th District, which includes Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, was arrested earlier this month for displaying a firearm at a rally for Palestine.)

The New York City Council released a statement of support from Speaker Adrienne Adams in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants and issued a call to recognize “shared humanity and collective desire for peace.” Since that statement, over 11,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the Israeli response. The City Council has not issued any further public statements on the subject. 

Listen to the voices of protesters at the Election Day action.

Biz Peterson, an attendee at the rally, has been calling her representative every day since Oct. 7 and found “a real human being on the phone” twice, she said. She planned to head to the polls after the rally and made her demands of U.S. representatives clear. 

“A ceasefire is only the start — we need to stop funding Israel; it’s not something that the U.S. taxpayers have ever asked for,” she said. “I’m just hoping that politicians are going to start learning the lesson that come 2028, Gen Z and millennials are going to be the majority in this country. We will hold the voting power and we will vote them out of office.”

Protest attendees bore signs reading “From the River to the Sea” and lambasting political leaders like President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. 

Before the crowds moved across the bridge, people gathered at City Hall to hear from local community leaders.

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, a member of Jews United Against Zionism, said “We are here because we’re Jewish — this terrible massacre is taking place in the name of my religion and in the name of Judaism,” showing photos of the life before and during the occupation as he spoke. “We want the world to know this is the culmination of all the murders that happened in 75 years.”

In the face of a long and brutal history, Peterson said it was frustrating to feel seemingly impotent while confronting a catastrophe of this scale. 

“I think it’s healing for the people here to come together and to be angry together and also hopefully, make sure that the government knows that we’re not disappearing,” she said.

Rizik agreed. She said the devastation and heartbreak day after day over the last month was exhausting, but the fight had to go on for her people. She was in a rut, she said, having to work, take care of family and prevent children from witnessing so much sadness. 

“It’s been really, really difficult but we’re going to keep fighting for them,” said Rizik. “Palestinians are the strongest, most resilient people in the world and we should all take notes.”

Wednesday, Nov. 8

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Organization, known as Neturei Karta, is outspoken against Israeli occupation.
Eliana Perozo

On Wednesday, hundreds gathered outside of the United Nations headquarters in New York City demanding that the U.N. member countries vote against Israeli bombardment. 

“It is hard to watch people use violence in this way,” said Rabbi Joseph, an eighth-generation Palestinian. “My grandmother would tell me how Palestinians and Jews lived in harmony for many years. We were neighbors, friends. This is not Judaism, this is Zionism.’ 

Sam P., a protester in attendance said, “I’m here because the United Nations needs to be held accountable. Instead of simply saying this is a humanitarian crisis, they need to vote for a ceasefire actively and they’re not doing that. No child should suffer.”

Thursday, Nov. 9

Protest at AFL-CIO Regional Office

Over two dozen protesters gathered outside the regional offices of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Midtown Thursday to denounce the federation’s notorious history of silencing pro-Palestinian voices. The AFL-CIO represents over 12.5 million members from more than 60 national and international labor unions.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators in front of AFL-CIO regional headquarters Nov. 9.
Kimberly Izar

On Oct. 11, the labor hub published a one-paragraph statement about the atrocities in Palestine, shying away from demanding a ceasefire and instead calling for “a swift resolution to the current conflict to end the bloodshed of innocent civilians.”

The AFL-CIO has a decades-long track record of squashing affiliates’ support to end the Israeli occupation in Palestine. In 2021, the federation’s leadership team blocked their affiliate the San Francisco Labor Council from endorsing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, stating the Council must “conform their activities on national affairs to the policies of the AFL-CIO.”

Samar from the Palestinian Youth Movement criticized the AFL-CIO, saying they used the labor movement to pump money into the Histadrut, Israel’s largest trade union. 

“From 1920, the AFL helped to raise funds for the Histadrut, the colonial militarized movement that the Zionists created in occupied Palestine under the guise of a labor movement,” said Samar at the protest.

She said that the Histadrut was never a labor movement but an arm of the Israeli state for developing Israeli infrastructure in Palestine. 

“[It] was a movement that housed the colonial militias that committed the 1948 Nakba.”

Members from the National Writers Union, CUNY for Palestine, Amazon Labor Union Democratic Reform Caucus and other groups were also present to demand AFL-CIO call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

Shut it Down! For Palestine Protest at Bryant Park and The New York Times building.

Dr. Cornel West showed up at the Nov. 9 Shut it Down for Palestine action that ended up at the New York Times.
Hari Adivarekar

Hundreds of high school and college students gathered Thursday afternoon at the Stephen A. Schwarzman New York Public Library building in protest of anti-Palestinian stances taken by school leadership in the city

“Young people see other people suffering. They have a heart for them,” said one 15-year-old boy from Sheepshead Bay, whose family is from Yemen. 

Students at Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy organized a walkout attended by most of the students to show support for the people and children of Palestine, said student Ayyub, 15.

The march, joined by actress Susan Sarandon, started at Bryant Park and made its way down Fifth Avenue, passing by the Empire State Building and stopping traffic along the way. The demonstration then made its way to The New York Times building, where protestors were already inside the building and others rallied outside. 

Protestors read out loud the names of at least 36 journalists who were killed in Gaza by Israel. They distributed newspapers titled The New York War Crimes and chanted, “New York Times, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.” The New York Times has been criticized for slanted coverage that sows doubt for the Palestinian cause, despite human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, calling Israel an “apartheid” state.

The New York War Crimes was a part of a Nov. 9 demonstration against The New York Times for its biased reporting of Israel’s war on Gaza.
Hari Adivarekar

Times staff were escorted out of an alternate entrance by security and NYPD’s Strategic Response Group. 

The walkout was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement and CUNY 4 Palestine, among many others. 

Friday, Nov. 10

Thousands of protesters gathered before sunset at Columbus Circle for a teach-in, chanting “Genocide Joe has got to go” last Friday.

Ayyub, accompanied by a friend he had met at another rally, said this was his tenth protest for Palestine he had attended over the last month. Ayyub uses a wheelchair but said it doesn’t hinder his ability to protest at all, thanks to the many protestors willing to help. Pasted on the left arm of his chair is a sticker that says, “Every time the media lies, a neighborhood in Gaza dies.”

Ayyub (right) and a protest friend at his tenth protest for Palestine since Oct. 7.
Elias Guerra

“Me being in a wheelchair won’t stop me, nor will it silence me, even if means I have to struggle with transportation at times,” Ayyub said over text. 

He quoted a hadith from Islam, “Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand,” adding that people who do nothing are revealing something about themselves. “Your ‘neutrality’ is just as bad as murder, you are letting it happen.”

Organized by Within Our Lifetime, the demonstration that started with the teach in was followed by a rally and then a march. An estimated group of 5,000 people — Palestinians and their supporters, young and old — attended. Eventually, numerous luxury stores got stickered, red paint was spilled, a pane of door-glass at Grand Central was broken, and several people were later roughly arrested after a minor removed U.S. and UN flags from a street pole, reported PROTEST_NYC.

Listen to the voices of protesters at the Nov. 10 Columbus Circle protest.

The Indy spoke with a Palestinian-Lebanese-American sociologist who has studied Palestinians in New York for two decades. She said that she attends rallies “definitely for my daughter, so she can feel a sense of community and a sense of belonging beyond what she sees on the news. Do I feel that it’s gonna change policy? Not necessarily. But does it feel like the world is projecting their care for Palestinians? Yes,” said the sociologist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

Her daughter, not more than 10 years old, said that she enjoys going to the protests “because I’m supporting my home.”

Also present at the demonstration was Moishe, an elderly Israeli-American man. “This country has refused to endorse a ceasefire. I mean it’s just crazy; when President Biden stands in the way of a ceasefire, he is just slaughtering people, and this is for me a war crime,” said Moishe. He went on to say that he wished he saw more protests co-organized by Palestinian and Jewish groups. “I don’t see why it’s not done together. It’s very disappointing that it’s not like that. It has to start somewhere.” 

Charity, a lifelong New Yorker and longtime leftist who was also at the protest, said in an interview that it’s important to look at the colonial history of Palestine. “Most [Israelis] are European Jews! From Russia, from Poland. Palestinians are the indigenous people,” said Charity. “The Palestinians never said the Jews could not go there… but it turned into occupation, and it went beyond apartheid.”

Sunday, November 12

A punk group performs at Herbert Von King Park Nov. 11 as a part of Punks for Palestine. Eliana Perozo

Punks for Palestine — Herbert Von King Park

The crowd at Herbert Von King Park in Bed-Stuy on Sunday hosted a fraction of attendees compared to other protests, but the energy was powerful enough to compensate. 

Sema, a local tattoo artist involved in the city’s punk scene, organized a benefit concert with proceeds going to Palestinian Youth Movement. Bands such as Cross, No Knock, Suck, and Pure Terror performed as over two dozen attendees moshed in the center of the amphitheater. Jewish Voices for Peace, Adalah Justice Project and Palestinian Youth Movement were also present to share educational resources. 

“Punk in general is about outsiders, underdogs, and the oppressed peoples of the world,” said volunteer Dan Gaetani. “NYC is diverse and NYC’s punk scene is too. Arab, Latino and other punks of color are pushing the white punks to be more involved and aware of the political situation and that’s important.”

Families assemble in front of the Brooklyn Museum as a part of a national day of action.
Hari Adivarekar

Family march — 4:30pm @ The Brooklyn Museum 

Several hundred parents, children, and supporters gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday to demand that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other elected officials call for a ceasefire.

Attendees offered toys, toddler shoes, and handwritten messages to honor the more than 4,500 children killed in Gaza over the last month. Children in strollers and on parents’ shoulders, many of whom took over megaphones to lead chants, marched from the Museum to Senator Schumer’s home in Brooklyn. The family-friendly event was organized by Brooklyn Families for Palestine as part of the National Families Day of Action for Families in Gaza.

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