Photo: NYC Free Al-Quds

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network activist Nick Maniace was unjustly arrested by the NYPD on Friday, 23 June as he participated in the International Al-Quds Day rally in Times Square in Manhattan. In an illegitimate and illegal arrest, Nick was seized by police for holding a bullhorn at a fully permitted rally with an outdoor sound permit for the use of amplified sound. Indeed, cops came through the barricades/pens that they had erected around the protesters to constrain the rally, invading the space to seize Nick, handcuff him and arrest him for approximately three hours.

Photo: Joe Catron

Nick will appear in court on 28 August at 9:30 am at Midtown Community Court on bogus allegations of “illegal use of sound.” Samidoun and a number of Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organizations in New York City will be mobilizing to defend Nick and the right of activists to speak, chant and mobilize for Palestine.

Photo: Joe Catron

The arrest and attack appears to represent an ongoing practice of attempted intimidation of Palestine activism throughout the city. Meanwhile, as the rally went on, a group of pro-apartheid and white supremacist counter-demonstrators from racist, violent organizations like the Jewish Defense League hurled abuse at the hundreds of Al-Quds Day rally participants from across the street. Various counter-protesters from this group would repeatedly walk across the street to the Al-Quds Day rally in an attempt to create disruption.

Photo: Joe Catron

Of course, this is only the latest incident of police repression at the hands of the New York Police Department. In April, the NYPD attacked a demonstration against the U.S. bombing of Syria, arresting nine Palestine activists from a number of groups, including Samidoun organizers, and violently assaulting NYC Students for Justice in Palestine organizer Nerdeen Kiswani, slamming her into the concrete and grabbing her by her hijab, ripping it from her head.

Photo: Joe Catron

The arrest at the Al-Quds Day rally came as numerous protesters filled the area, demanding justice for Palestine. Speakers included Kiswani of NYC SJP, Joe Catron of Samidoun, Sara Flounders of the International Action center, Bernadette Ellorin and Mike Legaspi of BAYAN USA, longtime activist Esperanza Martel, Richard Kossally of Peoples’ Power Assembly, Mike Bento of NYC Shut it Down, Syed Istafa Naqvi of the Islamic Association of North America, Shahid Comrade of the Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, Larry Holmes of the Workers World Party and Lawrence Hamm of the Peoples Organization for Progress, reflecting an alliance of social justice movements. The New York City rally came as part of the international Al-Quds Day rallies organized in cities around the world, marking the last Friday of Ramadan.

Nick’s arrest took place midway through Joe Catron’s speech for the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. In his talk, Catron emphasized al-Quds Day as a celebration of Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and international resistance to Zionism, and the importance of resistance in establishing Israeli prisons, key points of Israeli repression, as sites of Palestinian mobilization and struggle. The crowd chanted loudly for Palestine with slogans like “1, 2, 3, 4; open up the prison door. 5, 6, 7, 8; smash the settler Zionist state” and “There is only one solution: Intifada, revolution.”

Photo: Joe Catron

Sara Flounders of the International Action Center led dealings with the police over the arrest, demanding Nick’s immediate release. A small team of demonstrators engaged in jail support arrived with Nick to the Al-Quds Day Iftar organized by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine after the demonstration, meeting with cheers and strong solidarity and support.

Photo: Joe Catron

This comes in a long series of arrests targeting participants in Palestine rallies, from the “Palestine Nine” – nine Arab and Palestinian American youth targeted for arrest after leaving a demonstration – to the case of Michael Williams. More critically, these arrests reflect an underlying policy of surveillance and police repression that included massive religious and racial profiling of Muslim and Arab communities throughout New York City. The NYPD had a “Demographics Unit” that singled out Muslim and Arab community leaders, student groups, community organizations and even restaurants for continuous surveillance and intimidation for years on end.

The NYPD’s repression and surveillance program reached far outside New York City, targeting mosques, student groups and community spaces in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In 2012, the NYPD made its “counter-terror” collaboration with the Israeli occupation state official as it opened an office inside the police department of Kfar Saba in occupied Palestine. NYPD reportedly also participated in interrogations in CIA black sites and US detention centers in Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Guantanamo.

Photo: Joe Catron

An NYPD officer using the name “Ilter Ayturk” infiltrated numerous community organizations, including Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organization Al-Awda New York, befriending community members and activists and even traveling to the U.S. Social Forum as a Palestine campaigner. The same NYPD infiltrator later targeted vulnerable, isolated community members suffering from mental illness, like Ahmed Ferhani, for a bogus “terrorism case” created by “Ayturk” and fellow police.

Photo: Joe Catron

This police repression targeting Palestinian, Arab and Muslim was certainly built on the deeply rooted foundation of the NYPD’s long-time history and present of violent repression and targeting of the Black community and other oppressed communities in the city. The recent police killings of Eric Garner, Kimani Grey, Ramarley Graham and Akai Gurley represent only a few recent examples of the ongoing assault on Black communities, including the notorious “stop-and-frisk” policy and the framework of “broken windows” policing characterized by intense repression of communities of color and working class communities, especially Black and Latinx communities.

Black Lives Matter and other Black community movements and organizations have been consistently targeted for surveillance, infiltration and repression, including the use of undercover NYPD officers as infiltrators.  “Cop Watch” organizers highlighting the level of repression faced by targeted communities have also been repeatedly targeted for arrest and surveillance.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces the unjust and illegitimate arrest by the NYPD of Nick Maniace. Such attacks are in no way surprising from a police department engaged in daily terror against Black people and other oppressed communities. This incident reflects ongoing NYPD support for Zionism and racism and the framework of repression and surveillance targeting the Palestine movement and Arab and Muslim organizing and community existence. We urge full support for Nick Maniace at his scheduled court date on 28 August and, most importantly, continued and intensified organizing, protest and action against racism, Zionism, imperialism and colonialism, from NYPD repression on the streets of New York to Zionist settler colonialism in occupied Palestine.

All supporters of Palestine are encouraged to join Samidoun for our next New York City protest for Palestinian political prisoners, at 5:30 pm on Friday, 30 June, outside the Best Buy in Union Square.