By JOHN LESLIE
Thousands of protesters in New York City’s Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, neighborhood were met with police repression on Saturday, Oct. 21. As part of the National Day of Action for Palestine, as many as 50,000 people demanded an end to the U.S.-supported genocidal actions by Israel, an end to the siege of Gaza, and the full liberation of Palestine. Bay Ridge is the center of New York’s Palestinian community.
One of the main organizers of the protest, Within Our Lifetime, a Palestinian community organization, stated on Instagram: “Today on Saturday, October 21st, the National Day of Action for Palestine, the Israeli-trained New York Police Department brutally attacked our demonstration in which tens of thousands of New Yorkers marched on the streets of the Palestinian neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.” The video posted by Within Our Lifetime shows a police officer throwing punches in the crowd.
Within Our Lifetime continued, “At the time of writing, there are nearly two dozen arrests, three of which were minors. At least two protestors suffered injuries from the actions of the NYPD.” According to The New York Daily News, “19 adults and three juveniles” have been charged. A day earlier, Friday, Oct. 20, 139 people were arrested by the NYPD during a Palestine solidarity protest for “blocking traffic.”
The Daily News reported that what sparked tensions with cops on Saturday was the deployment of an LRAD (long-range acoustic device) or sound canon. The newspaper quoted a police statement as saying: “Officers were pushed, shoved, and struck by some demonstrators within the crowd after the LRAD (long-range acoustic device) device was utilized. … Officers were struck with flying debris which included eggs, fireworks, and bottles.”
The Daily News also noted that the NYPD’s use of the LRAD device against protesters had led to a $750,000 legal settlement with Black Lives Matter protesters in 2021. The New York Times report on the protest failed to mention police use of the LRAD and put emphasis on tensions in the community, with a headline stating, “Angry and Afraid: Tensions High in New York Over Israel-Hamas War.”
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) condemned the police use of force to disperse the peaceful protest in Bay Ridge. CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher stated, “The alleged actions of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group in violently dispersing a peaceful crowd speaks to the degradation of our civil rights, especially when it comes to pro-Palestinian solidarity. The relationship between the NYPD and the Muslim community was already on thin ice, and these latest actions only illustrate why.
“The NYPD’s motto ‘Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect’ certainly doesn’t seem to apply to all communities equally. CAIR-NY joins other civil-rights organizations in calling for the disbandment of the Strategic Response Group.”
The Bay Ridge neighborhood has experienced anti-Palestinian hate crimes in the weeks since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. CBS New York reports that “in one incident, police said suspects riding in three cars were waving Israeli flags and started yelling anti-Palestinian remarks at three men walking on 86th Street near 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge at around 11:30 p.m. The men walking yelled something to the effect of ‘Free Palestine,’ before the group got out of the cars and punched and kicked one of them, an 18-year-old.” In an earlier incident, a man carrying a Palestinian flag was attacked on the street.
CAIR-NY issued a statement: “We condemn these apparently bias-motivated assaults and urge public officials and media professionals to end the anti-Palestinian incitement and the spreading of misinformation that is putting a target on Palestinian-Americans, Arab-Americans and American Muslims.”
All charges against protesters in New York City must be dropped now. The NYPD’s police-state tactics are unacceptable and a threat to democratic rights and free speech. The Strategic Response Group, part of the NYPD’s “counterterrorism” effort, should be immediately disbanded. Police units like this are an example of the increasingly militarized policing practices in the U.S. In their drive to promote Israel’s genocidal war, the U.S. ruling class is attacking the right to free speech. We must insist that there cannot be a “Palestine exception” for the right to assemble, protest, and speak.
Photo: James Keivom / NY Post