Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators Block N.Y. Bridge and Tunnel Traffic


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators on Monday blocked off entrances to the Holland Tunnel and the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, disrupting rush-hour traffic in Manhattan as they protested Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip and called for a cease-fire.

Protesters gathered at the Holland Tunnel around 9:30 a.m. and held aloft a Palestinian flag and banners that read “Lift the siege on Gaza” and “End the occupation.” Nearby, a group of demonstrators in fluorescent vests and masks linked arms and redirected cars away from the outbound ramp.

Shortly thereafter, they were arrested — 125 protesters at the tunnel in all, according to the police — with some chanting “Free Palestine” as they sat on the ground with their hands tied.

Similar scenes unfolded simultaneously at the three bridges, with traffic resuming, if slowly, by 11. The participants had gathered at City Hall Park early Monday, the police said, before dispersing in smaller groups and traveling to the bridges and the tunnel.

Mon Mohapatra, 30, one of the demonstrators at the Brooklyn Bridge, said the organizers on Monday represented various groups, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Democratic Socialists of America, Jewish Voice for Peace and others.

She said the protests were meant to draw a parallel to the situation in Gaza, where residents have been killed even after following orders to evacuate.

“We are trying to show how it feels to be trapped in a city you can’t leave,” Ms. Mohapatra said.

Such protests have become an almost daily feature of life in New York City since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing roughly 1,200 people. Israel has since killed about 23,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in airstrikes and a ground invasion, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, with thousands more missing.

Demonstrations in New York in recent months have snarled traffic on the roadways outside Kennedy Airport and filled the concourse at Grand Central Terminal. Protests have also materialized at the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

“We are here trying to do more direct action because nothing is changing,” said Olivia Walsh, 30, who was at the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday. “Until children stop dying, we will be out here.”

The demonstrations have sparked debates about the effectiveness of public protests that disrupt daily life in American cities. Outside the Holland Tunnel, some passengers could be heard hurling insults at the protesters, while other motorists honked their horns in solidarity.

“In Gaza, of course, people have limited mobility, no freedom of movement, they cannot leave, even if they want to, they move place to place, then those places are bombed,” Rachel Himes, one of the demonstrators, said shortly before she was arrested at the Holland Tunnel, explaining why protesters had chosen to block traffic. “We wanted to create that condition temporarily in Manhattan.”

Just before 10 a.m., police officers told protesters at the Holland Tunnel that they had two minutes to clear the area. Moments later, they began arresting them, binding their hands with zip ties, as onlookers chanted, “Let Gaza live!” Traffic resumed through the tunnel soon after.

Chants continued at the Brooklyn Bridge as well, as the police arrested protesters and shepherded them onto an out-of-service city bus.

The police did not respond to a request for comment about how many people were arrested at the bridges.

Protesters at the Williamsburg Bridge included David Shutkin, who traveled from his home in Cleveland over the weekend to take part.

“I’m a Jewish person and I believe the liberation of the Jewish people is tied up in the liberation of the Palestinian people,” said Mr. Shutkin, 60.

About an hour after the demonstration began there, police used handsaws to chop through lengths of plastic piping and metal chains that protesters had used to form a traffic barrier. As sparks flew from the saws, a crowd of onlookers formed.

Dawn Mignott, 60, was walking to her home on the Lower East Side when she came across the commotion and began filming it with her phone. Though some demonstrators swore at the police and called them “KKK,” there did not appear to be any physical altercations.

“At least it looks peaceful,” Ms. Mignott said.

Julian Roberts-Grmela, Nate Schweber and Claire Fahy contributed reporting.



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