N.Y. ceasefire protests face violent attacks as celebrities party
Taryn Fivek / People's World

NEW YORK—Near the 68th Street subway station, an anti-Zionist Jewish man in traditional black garb stands with a banner denouncing the state of Israel and its atrocities. Another man, younger and larger, wearing a black velvet kippah, lunges for his sign, attempting to tear it out of his hands. The older man hangs onto the sign for dear life. The younger one begins to scuffle with him as a group of supporters of Israel raise their voices, jeering.

Two bystanders step in, one an African American man who was otherwise collecting signatures to gain ballot access for Cornell West and the other a woman, a member of the Communist Party USA. They both demand that the group leave the Haredi man alone. “Get your hands off him! What’s wrong with you?” the woman cries out. “You can’t do that to people!”

The instigator makes a run for it as the violence turns on those who intervened. An older, gray-haired, and red-faced man with a bicycle begins to bellow at the woman. “You should get raped by Hamas!” he yells, lunging forward.

Bonnie, a member of the New York Young Communist League, darts in to intervene. “Get away from her!” she demands, putting her body between her older comrade and the man.

“Both of you should suck my cock, you cunts!” the red-faced man retorts, wheeling his bike towards the subway entrance.

Taryn Fivek / People’s World

This gendered and anti-Semitic violence was the result of the NYPD staging itself to box in a ceasefire protest at the City University of New York while allowing pro-Israel counter-protesters to get up close and personal with the students, empowering this mob-like environment.

A video circulating online shows a woman assaulting another pro-Palestinian Jewish man in a car. An NYPD captain stands by, not arresting her, even as the victim’s rabbi demands it. Later that evening, the police moved in for arrests of ceasefire demonstrators while allowing pro-Israel counter-protesters to assault a woman in a hijab.

This student movement started as a peaceful and creative way to demand an immediate end to the genocide in Gaza, where Israel has now destroyed 100% of universities and murdered 356 educators, and for their universities to divest from the U.S.-Israeli war machine. What followed was a moral panic pushed by wealthy donors and members of Congress claiming that these students are anti-Semitic, a claim disproven elsewhere in People’s World coverage.

Yet, as the recent brutal crackdowns of student encampments at Columbia, CCNY, The New School, and NYU have shown, the NYPD is going all out to enable actual anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and gendered violence, if not inflict it themselves. But the students are still fighting, even as graduation ceremonies are canceled and campuses locked up behind police checkpoints.

There are hundreds of CUNY students outside of Hunter College, but they are penned in by police and construction work. The campus itself has been locked down, with classes moved online and only two entrances open to those who can show Hunter College ID to campus police. The student demonstrators are packed in like sardines behind police barricades as the pro-Israel counter-protesters hurl abuse at them, all under the watchful eyes of hundreds of Hunter College students gathered at the windows above the fray.

The student demonstrators are unwilling to stay in their tight pen, so they break through and begin to move uptown, passing in front of some of the most expensive real estate in the country along Central Park. As the mass of what are now thousands begins to hike up 5th Avenue, black and white vans are left stranded in the road, caged in by the crowd or by the police themselves. “Do you know what this is?” Bonnie exclaims. “This is all staging for the Met Gala! These vans are all full of celebrities!”

Indeed, further up 5th Avenue the richest and most powerful people in New York are gathering for their annual spring social at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It becomes clear that this is the goal of the demonstration: to disrupt the Met Gala.

With a helicopter and drones in the sky, the NYPD cuts off the march at 5th Avenue and 79th Street, with scores of grinning Strategic Response Group police stationed behind hastily erected metal barricades. The NYPD herds the march around the museum, preventing their approach for two hours before the march heads back downtown and disperses in front of the Plaza Hotel at 59th Street. Several pro-Palestine demonstrators were arrested.

“To be honest, the majority of violence I saw wasn’t coming from the police,” Bonnie reports later to People’s World. She said a lot of the violence she saw was coming from counter-protesters backing Israel, who were “ripping down signs and screaming in people’s faces and pushing people, just generally agitating and trying to start fights.”

Taryn Fivek / People’s World

The situation echoes police tactics more regularly witnessed in the South during the days of the Civil Rights Movement, whereby police stood back as white supremacists attacked anti-racist protesters. It’s not just reminiscent of the past, though. A braying mob of white fraternity members taunted an African American woman attending a demonstration in support of Palestine at Ole Miss just last week with a racist display that went viral.

But while some of the students in that particular incident are under investigation, and indeed some have been expelled from their fraternities, the police are actively abetting this behavior elsewhere. At UCLA, the LAPD stood by for hours as hundreds of pro-Israel demonstrators from off-campus violently attacked the student protesters, hospitalizing 25 students overnight just hours before the LAPD moved in to clear the encampment and arrest hundreds.

The same mob behavior is being repeated in New York City. Emerging from their multi-million-dollar condominiums, it is little surprise to learn which side of history some of the local violent agitators stand on. Especially shocking, though, is the age gap between these groups: The demonstrators out for Palestinian liberation are young, while their opponents are generally far older. What does this mean for the Biden administration in November, considering that young voters were a key constituency that helped elect him in 2020?

Since Oct. 7, not a day has gone by in New York where workers, students, and youth have not been in the streets somewhere demanding justice for Palestine. As Nakba Day—May 15—draws closer, as Israel refuses a ceasefire, as the U.S. for the first time holds back on a new arms shipment to Israel, and as the November election continues to approach, tensions are sure to keep rising.

Whether they break on the side of justice or genocide remains a question for the democratic majority in favor of an immediate ceasefire to answer.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Taryn Fivek
Taryn Fivek

Taryn Fivek is a reporter for People's World in New York.