Cries of “Free Palestine” rang out in New York on Friday, as thousands of protesters took to the streets to denounce Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip.
Calling for an end to “Israeli occupation” and the “liberation” of the Palestinian territories, protesters took up multiple blocks in a city that serves as a crossroads for religions and nationalities spanning the world.
The largely youthful protest — which drew demonstrators of all origins, some sporting Palestinian flags and keffiyehs — accused Israel of “genocide” and called for the US to withdraw support for its Middle Eastern ally.
Hamas fighters from Gaza burst through the heavily militarized border into Israel on Saturday, killing more than 1,300 people — mostly civilians — in an attack compared to 9/11 in the United States.
Israel has responded with a fierce bombardment of missile strikes on the densely populated enclave, killing at least 1,900 Gazans — again mostly civilians, including more than 600 children.
Thousands are attempting to flee to southern Gaza after Israel warned them to evacuate before an expected ground offensive.
“I’m extremely worried, this has to stop,” said Liz Zacharia, a professor attending the march.
“The settler colonial project of Israel has to end now,” said Zacharia, whose father was from Jerusalem, adding that it feeds a growing “cycle of violence” and “oppression of Palestinians.”
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” protesters chanted, a slogan some Jewish organizations say calls for the destruction of Israel and is anti-Semitic.
Supporters of the slogan say it calls for equality for Palestinians and Israelis.
In Brooklyn, dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday night as they held a sit-in blocking traffic after demonstrating in front of the home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, who is planning to travel with a congressional delegation to Israel.
Called by the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which has urged elected officials to “stop genocide against Palestinians in Gaza,” the protest drew a mass of protesters in front of a strong police presence.
Those arrested included two elected officials, rabbis and descendants of Holocaust survivors.
About 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators also gathered in the southern US city of Miami.
A heavy police presence guarded the protest and made sure to keep a distance between it and the dozen pro-Israel demonstrators across the street.
Anas Amireh, 51, a businessman and the son of Palestinian immigrants, said that responding to the killings of innocents in Israel with “another genocide… in the Gaza Strip is a criminal war and it is wrong.”
“I feel it’s my duty, not just as a Muslim, but also as a human being, to see everyone show up because of the crimes that the Israel occupation has caused upon the Palestinian people,” said Laibah Faiaz, a 21-year-old New York protester.
“No one is acknowledging the scale of destruction that they’ve unleashed upon these innocent people,” she added.
New York, home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, has been the scene of a series of demonstrations in support of the Palestinian cause as well as vigils and demonstrations in solidarity with the Israeli victims of Hamas attacks.
Protests have popped up on college campuses across the US as well.
© Agence France-Presse