Ridgewood Rises Up for Palestine

Ridgewood Tenants Union led a 1,000-person march that highlights the displacement experienced in both rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods and by Palestinians at the hands of Israeli settlers.

Amba Guerguerian Jan 7

Yesterday in Ridgewood, Queens, tenants and their allies marched in a pro-Palestine demonstration organized by Ridgewood Tenant Union (RTU) with the support of the Palestinian Youth Movement, Within Our Lifetime, Writers Against the War on Gaza, Crown Heights Tenant Union, Brooklyn Eviction Defense and Mexicanos Unidos, among others. 

“We will honor all our martyrs, all our children’s sons and fathers/ We will honor all our martyrs, all our parent’s father’s father’s,” and “There is only one solution! Intifada, revolution!” the group of around 1,000 protesters chanted as it began marching out of Grover Cleveland Playground. 

This was just one of hundreds of demonstrations for Palestine that have occurred in New York City since Oct. 7. And it was one of three actions that occurred yesterday. Thousands of protesters led by Within Our Lifetime in coordination with Bronx-based groups like the Bronx Anti-War Coalition and the Bronx Palestine Solidarity Committee marched through Little Yemen, just east of Fordham in the Bronx. And the Palestinian Youth Movement led a protest that blocked the entrance to Lincoln Center, where the New York Philharmonic was to perform; a cellist played the Palestinian National Anthem for the demonstrators. 

The march evoked passionate responses from bystanders, many of whom expressed dismay at the enormity of Palestinian suffering.

Back at the Queens action, demonstration leaders made a comparison between the displacement of long-time residents caused by Zionist settlers in Palestine/Israel and by luxury developers in New York City. 

The march made a pit stop in front of Rolo’s, a trendy, upper-scale Ridgewood restaurant partially funded by a developer named Kermit Westergaard. “He profits from skyrocketing rent and welcomes more and more speculation and development in Ridgewood,” RTU member Luisa Cuautle told the crowd. “While working-class and immigrant tenants break their backs as dishwashers inside this restaurant, they would never be able to afford the rent of any of Kermit Westergaard’s buildings, like the apartments above this restaurant.”

Although Ridgewood is one of New York City’s most rapidly-gentrifying neighborhoods, it is still a immigrant-heavy community made up primarily of Latinos, Eastern Europeans and some Middle Easterners. A group of locals smiled as they heard protesters chant, “Not another penny, not another dollar, no more money for Israel’s slaughter.”

Another speaker slammed Mayor Adams’ budget cuts to all City departments except for public safety: “Many will die preventable deaths due to the freezing temperatures this winter. It happens every year and the City does nothing. Instead, it slashed access to one of the few spaces folks have to seek refuge during these winter months.”

“Stop the bombings,” read a small handmade sign at the Ridgewood Tenant Union protest for Palestine.

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One man (at times accompanied by a friend) angrily followed the protest, continually yelling, “Get rid of Hamas, then you’ll get a state!” and “Palestine isn’t the problem, Hamas is the problem!” Trained protest de-escalators and the police separated him from the crowd on multiple occasions.

Overall, The Indypendent witnessed a high level of interest in and support for the protest among bystanders. Various elderly people were crying as they looked on at the protest. A Middle Eastern deli worker smiled as he stepped out of his shop to watch the demonstration. He was happy to receive a small stack of flyers advertising the Jan. 13 National March on Washington for Gaza from an organizer who asked him to leave them on his counter for clients to take. 

A worker at a beauty shop flung the shop’s door open in order to cry out his support for the march. “China!” he said when The Indy asked where he was from. 

Erica came out of her building in her robe to watch the protest as she heard it passing by. “I’ve lived here for six years, but I’ve never seen a protest before,” said Erica. “This is America at its greatest. People who have views and want change to happen are expressing their views in a peaceful manner.” She said that the Palestine-Israel question is “very complicated,” and that she didn’t feel she was well-enough educated to comment on it, but that “my heart goes out to experiencing hardship.” She said she has known about various protests occurring over the past three months, and even saw a pro-Israel protest in front of the UN when it was in session. 

Badema, her husband Uzeir, and his sister Senada — older Albanian Muslims — ran out of a cafe near Fresh Pond and 65th St. to watch and support the procession. “It’s awful what’s happening in Palestine,” said Uzeir, as he began to list off recent atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza. 

Listen to a conversation with two of the rally’s main organizers, Raquel Namuche and Lamisse Beydoun.

“I cry all the time. It is so sad. I cry for all the children,” added Badema as Senada’s eyes welled up. 

The Indy encountered an older Lebanese woman who was walking home from grocery shopping and began crying when we asked her about her response to the protest and the conflict in general, listing the atrocities she’s seen Israel commit not only since Oct. 7 but over the course of her life. An older Egyptian man ran out of his apartment to follow the protest. He hesitated to express his support for Palestine to this reporter until I showed him the kuffiyeh wadded up in my bag. 

Pablo Hugo, 77, originally from Argentina, came out to watch the protest and smoke a cigarette. “People are fighting for their rights, and it’s a decent way,” he told The Indy. “If things were to come to this situation with a country I loved so much, I would do it. The suffering [in Palestine] is immense. I can see. I can tell. I’m over here smoking my cigarette, and for me it is very painful,” said Hugo, a sentiment he repeated many times during our conversation. “The other day I was having something to eat and I saw children being bombed on the television. I lost my appetite. I came outside to have a cigarette and pray — because I am eating like a king, a plate of food, nice and warm. And those people are in the streets. No medicine. No food. Nothing. No legs. It is very painful. It is very, very painful,” Hugo lamented.

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