April 19, 2024

Thousands of people took to the streets on Friday evening in the latest instance of what has become near daily protests in New York City over the Israel-Hamas war. This time, pro-Palestinian demonstrators held banners and signs demanding a cease-fire in the bombardment of Gaza.

Earlier in the afternoon, several rallies attracting hundreds of people formed at different points around the city, including Union Square, the J.P. Morgan offices on Madison Avenue and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s New York office near the United Nations headquarters, before merging on the steps of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park. The group then began its march through Midtown Manhattan.

As demonstrators wound their way through the center of the city, they waved Palestinian flags, held handmade signs with messages like “Ceasefire now,” and chanted, “Free Palestine.” The crowd stretched several blocks and paused at times in front of Pennsylvania Station and the New York Times building.

Debbie Bitar, 69, who marched with a Palestinian flag draped over her shoulders, said she hoped the gatherings would catch the attention of politicians and pressure them to call for a cease-fire and to end the United States’ aid to Israel.

“Every day I am watching Palestinian people get massacred,” Ms. Bitar said. “This can’t keep happening.” Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7 killed about 1,200, according to the Israeli authorities, and the death toll in Gaza, according to Gazan health officials, has crossed 11,000.

The actress Susan Sarandon has been a regular figure at protests throughout the city in recent weeks and was among the crowd that first gathered at Union Square.

“There’s a terrible thing that’s happened where antisemitism has been confused with speaking up against Israel,” Ms. Sarandon said. “I am against antisemitism. I am against Islamophobia.”

As the group advanced along West 43rd Street, heading back toward Bryant Park, someone spray painted “Free Gaza” on an M.T.A. bus that was stalled in protest-related traffic.

In Downtown Brooklyn, not far from the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, hundreds of people gathered outside the district office of Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, on Friday evening, also calling for a pause in the war.

The crowd, which included both adults and children, grew as the evening stretched on. They chanted “no more money for Israel’s crimes.” Mr. Jeffries’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Halima-Joy Elliston, 25, said she did not agree with the U.S. government’s support of Israel’s continued bombing of Gaza. Ms. Elliston said she showed up to protest on Friday outside Mr. Jeffries’s office in solidarity with Palestinians.

“They need a voice,” she said.

Since the start of the war, New York City has seen demonstrations on its many college campuses, where tensions are running high; at its landmarks, such as the flagship public library at Bryant Park and the Statue of Liberty; and at its transit hubs, like Grand Central Terminal.

Elsewhere in the city, Representative Dan Goldman of New York said his Brooklyn office had been vandalized in the morning. Images of his office that circulated on social media showed “Free Palestine” inked in red graffiti over a window and “Let Gaza Live” on the building.

The police confirmed that an individual had spray-painted the office, but said the investigation was ongoing and considered it a “nonbiased incident” at this time.

Simone Kanter, Mr. Goldman’s communications director, denounced the vandalism.

“Harassing, intimidating and outright attacking the staff of a Jewish elected official at a time of rising violence and rampant antisemitism is dangerous and unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

Reporting contributed by Liset Cruz and Camille Baker.

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