MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Thousands of Pro-Palestinian protesters filled the steps of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan Thursday afternoon.
Dozens of NYPD officers were on standby for crowd control.
“What we’ve been doing – by ‘we,’ I mean the United States and Israel, primarily – to the Palestinian people for decades now…is horrific,” said Bennett Weiss, a pro-Palestinian supporter. “And I’m glad people are finally paying attention to it.”
Protesters then moved across town, staging outside the New York Times headquarters on 8th Avenue and 40th Street.
Led by a group of media workers calling themselves “Writers Bloc,” demonstrators read off the names of thousands of Palestinians killed in Gaza, including at least 36 journalists whose deaths have been confirmed since the war began.
They scattered editions of a mock newspaper — “The New York War Crimes” — that charged the media with “complicity in laundering genocide” and called on the Times’ editorial board to publicly back a ceasefire.
“They say Israel has the right to defend itself,” said Moustafa Mohammed, a pro-Palestinian supporter from New Jersey. “This is not self-defense anymore. You cannot keep killing innocent people and claiming self-defense.”
Protesters also smashed the back window of an NYPD cruiser and graffitied it with the words ‘Free Gaza,’ ‘IDF,’ and ‘KKK.’ A smoke bomb was also set off near a group of police officers.
After dispersing the crowd, several hundred returned to the NYPL’s steps. This time, they were met by pro-Israeli counter-protesters who staged across the street.
“I called a couple of my buddies, we came out, came out with our flags,” said Isidore Kartan, one of the pro-Israeli protesters. “We have a couple of group chats and we’re able to mobilize a bunch of people here to stand up for Jewish freedom and to stand up for democracy and stabilizing the area.”
The sit-in followed a series of actions at high-profile locations in New York intended to bring attention to the growing death toll in Gaza.
On Tuesday, activists with the group Jewish Voice for Peace briefly took over the Statue of Liberty. The week prior, hundreds of people packed into Grand Central Terminal, shutting down the commuting hub during rush hour while hoisting banners that read “Ceasefire Now.”
More than 10,800 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory, since the Oct. 7th massacre by Hamas, which took the lives of at least 1,400 people in Israel.
It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was arrested during the Thursday sit-in.
An email sent to New York Times staffers by the publication’s head of corporate security described the protest as “peaceful,” noting that “no entrances are blocked.”
Jonathan Rizk is a digital journalist who has covered local news in the New York City and Washington D.C. areas. He has been with PIX11 since August 2022. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.
This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.