New Yorkers gathered in a series of protests to commemorate the 70th anniversary of al-Nakba, support the Great Return March of Palestinians in Gaza and express their anger and outrage at the massacres committed by the Israeli occupation army that have taken over 112 Palestinian lives and wounded thousands since 30 March. On Friday, 18 May, over 800 people gathered in Times Square for a march and rally organized by the NY4Palestine Coalition to express their support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for return and liberation.
Organized by the NY4Palestine Coalition, participating organizations included Within Our Lifetime – United For Palestine, Al-Awda – Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, American Muslims for Palestine, International Action Center, Labor for Palestine, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, the Muslim American Society and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.
Participants in the demonstration included many members of the Palestinian community in New York, organizations and movements in solidarity with Palestine including Black Liberation Movement organizations, Kashmiri groups and Filipino movements, and the Orthodox Jewish Neturei Karta movement. Participants carried signs demanding freedom for all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, and freedom for Palestinian prisoners, including Ahed Tamimi, Ahmad Sa’adat and Khalida Jarrar.
“We condemn moving the embassy moving to Al-Quds and we condemn wherever the U.S. Embassy would be, because all Palestine is Palestinian land – from the river to the sea! We support the right of all Palestinians resisting the illegal siege by Israel during the great return march. And our final demand, from the belly of the beast, from one of the most powerful countries on Earth, if not the most, that continues to fund Israel and makes it possible to continue murder Palestinians, the United States of America. We demand an end to all U.S. military aid to Israel,” said Nerdeen Kiswani of WOL, speaking from the stage at the back of a truck in Times Square.
Joe Catron, Samidoun’s U.S. coordinator, spoke on behalf of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, urging people in New York and elsewhere to be part of the global Great March of Return on 5 June. The anniversary of the 1967 occupation is the next day that has been set by the leadership of the Great Return March in Gaza for mobilization and protest at the colonially-imposed 1948 armistice line between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli occupation.
The rally at Times Square culminated in a march to the Israeli Consulate, where speakers urged all to continue to participate and step up the level of organizing for Palestinian liberation and return.
The Friday demonstration was followed on Monday, 21 May with a People’s Monday gathering in Grand Central Terminal organized by NYC Shut It Down. NYC Shut it Down, part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, organizes weekly Monday protests that highlight victims of police and state violence and repression.
This week, they dedicated their demonstration to Yaser Murtaja, the Palestinian journalist killed on 6 April by Israeli occupation forces as he filmed Palestinians participating in the Great Return March.
Palestine activists from various groups, including Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, joined NYC Shut it Down organizers for the protest, which included signs bearing key facts about Yaser Murtaja as well as images of his face.
The protesters chanted slogans and delivered speeches in a call-and-response or “general assembly” style that allowed their voices to echo throughout the station, demanding justice for Murtaja, the Palestinian people and Black people targeted by police.
Crowds of police followed the protesters as they entered Grand Central Cafe to speak about Murtaja, attempting to discourage diners from interacting with the protesters.
The protesters marched outside the station to the streets and took their message to Bryant Park and Times Square, confronting attempted police suppression of the protest and a heavy NYPD presence the entire way. The protest concluded with words from Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
— Ash J (@AshAgony) May 22, 2018
These events followed a protest one week earlier, also organized by the NY4Palestine coalition of which Samidoun is a part, in the heart of New York’s Palestinian and Arab community in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. 400 people took to the streets of Bay Ridge following the Israeli massacre on Gaza on 14 May for the first of the planned series of events to commemorate 70 years of ongoing Nakba and support the Palestinian struggle for return and liberation.
Over three hours of marching through the community, the organizers read out the names of the 61 martyrs whose lives were taken that day as they marched for return in Gaza. “It was a moment when everyone felt, we are also part of the great return March, and we are making our way home,” said Kiswani of WOL.
The march and rally was large and spirited, including Nakba survivors recalling their experiences, Palestinian youth pledging to continue their multi-generational struggle until liberation and solidarity organizers and movements from various communities committed to Palestinian freedom. The demonstration received widespread support from local organizations, residents and community members.
Additional events also took place throughout the week in New York City to stand with Palestine and denounce the Israeli massacres. On 16 May, Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!, joined by activists from many groups, including Samidoun organizers, held a demonstration outside the offices of U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. The participants denounced the senators’ support for the Israeli state and its 70 years of violence, oppression and racism targeting the Palestinian people, especially following the massacre in Gaza on 14 May and the repeated murderous attacks on the Great Return March.