Pro-Palestine Protestors Demand a Gaza Cease-Fire

Protesters in New York marched from Washington Square Park to Times Square on March 2, calling for the withdrawal of U.S. military aid to Israel and an immediate cease-fire. At one point, police said that an NYPD emergency services vehicle was blocked as it tried to answer a call for what turned out to be a non-explosive device, resulting in clashes and eight arrests.

| 10 Mar 2024 | 02:19

Thousands of protestors gathered in Washington Square Park and under heavy rain on March 2 and marched to mid-town calling for a cease-fire in Gaza as part of a global day of action sponsored by a coalition of pro Palestinian advocacy groups.

“Thelma & Louise” co-star Susan Sarandon, Palestinian writer Mohammed el-Kurd, and other public figures delivered speeches to the crowd under the Washington Square Arch.

Jacob, 27, attended the protest with a group of fellow Christians who he said was trying to organize a stronger response to Gaza from the Episcopalian community. “We want to, from our place as people of faith, live out our values of justice and love and peace,” he said.

Amber McCandless, a 24-year old woman, came to the protest wearing an Army service uniform and told Straus News that she was an active service member. “There’s a taboo of active duty members being involved in political movements, and that is partly why I decided to wear the uniform today,” she said. “I want to draw attention to my belief that the Israeli invasion of Gaza is not acceptable on military or moral grounds.”

There were over 100 “Shut it Down for Palestine” demonstrations across the world on March 2, united by an urgent call for “hands off Rafah.” Israeli forces have killed over 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip, nearly half of them children. Conditions are worsening in the besieged enclave, with human rights organizations warning that more than one million people face starvation, homelessness, and disease. Israel has asserted that its actions are a justifiable response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, which killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took about 250 people hostage. Some hostages have been freed, and about one fifth reportedly died in captivity.

Cease-fire talks have bogged down, while President Joe Biden several days after the protests in his State of the Union address said that the US plans to build a relief station to bring supplies to Gaza.

“There has been a lot of harm done on the Palestinian people for many years, and there just wasn’t a lot of attention directed towards that,” said Regina Gori, a 65-year old retired teacher. “Now people are learning about what’s been happening, because the images coming out of Gaza are just so dramatic and horrific.” A February Associated Press poll found that half of American adults think that Israel had “gone too far” in its invasion of Gaza.

Some U.S. officials are now pressing for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid, but others have remained unequivocal in their support for Israel. That has drawn the ire of protestors who had pictures of Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Ritchie Torres on protest signs accusing them of “washing their hands in Palestinian blood.”

“None of the money they give to civilians matters if they’re giving even more money to help the country that’s bombing them,” said Melinda, a CUNY student. “We need to keep telling politicians that we will not stand for our tax dollars being used to fund a genocide.” Accusations against Israel of committing genocide were prominent on protest signs splattered with red paint, and echoed by some human rights watchdogs observing the crisis.

“People say that Hamas are terrorists, but what about Israel?” asked Eman, an immigrant from Egypt. “They’re the ones bombing schools and hospitals, bombing children. This is not war. This is genocide.”

Around 3:30 p.m. on March 2, demonstrators streamed out of the park and onto Sixth Avenue. They moved north, waving Palestinian flags and yelling, “We want justice you say how? End the siege on Gaza now!” A few pro-Israel individuals approached the procession to argue, but there was no organized counter-protest.

The march stretched across at least 15 blocks. NYPD officers in riot gear lined the sidewalks. Protest organizers wearing safety vests blocked traffic from crossing the avenue along the length of the march. Dotted among them were staff from the New York Civil Liberties Union, who were present to monitor officers’ compliance to protest policing reforms, following a recent settlement agreement with the NYPD. The crowd totaled over 3,500 people, a police source told the New York Post.

The march ended near Times Square. Though the protest was largely peaceful, police clashed with some protesters around the edge of Bryant Park.

Livestream footage shows a chaotic scene unfolding. First, a group of police officers calmly directs an NYPD Emergency Service Unit vehicle through the march, and guides protestors away from its path. Then, an officer pulls a protester, who appears to be walking past the vehicle, toward him, pushes them against the hood of the car. Several demonstrators nearby rush towards the scene, but other officers block their way as the ensuing tussle prevents the NYPD Emergency Services vehicle from responding to its call.

Eight people were arrested, and two issued summonses. The suspected explosive device turned out to be a non-active device.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry tweeted that the protesters had attempted to block the vehicle on its way to a “bomb threat call.” An Uber driver had found a grenade in the backseat of his vehicle at around 4 p.m. near Times Square, according to ABC7 New York. Police later discovered that the grenade was inert.

Eight people were arrested, and two issued summonses. .

Peace talks between Israel and Hamas are in a state of deadlock. Hamas insists on a long-term cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops, and the release of Palestinian political prisoners as conditions for returning the hostages. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not countenance a deal that indefinitely limits Israeli military operations or leaves Hamas in power. “It will just invite another massacre,” Netanyahu told reporters. “Only total victory will prevent that,” he continued later. “And total victory is within our reach.”

Vice President Kamala Harris recently called for an “immediate” six-week cease-fire, urging Israel to allow for the unobstructed flow of humanitarian aid and calling on Hamas to release the hostages they captured on Oct. 7. Her statement—the strongest to come from a senior official in the White House so far—comes after a letter signed by 11 Jewish congressmembers, including New Yorkers Jerry Nadler and Dan Goldman, which urged President Joe Biden to facilitate a temporary cease-fire. These positions fall short of calls for a permanent cease-fire endorsed by congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez as well as several state legislators and New York City council members. Most of the March 2 protesters also pushed for a permanent cease-fire.