Pro-Palestinian protesters, NYC, traffic, bridges

Hundreds Arrested, Tempers Flare After NYC Pro-Palestine Protests Block Bridges

Traffic was disrupted for nearly two hours. One Black driver confronted the protestors about blocking the bridges.

On Jan 8., protests against the Israeli bombing of Palestinians in Gaza led to an altercation between a Black man and several protestors blocking the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City.

Gothamist reports that the protest was a collaborative effort between several advocacy groups, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. In addition to blocking the Williamsburg Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and Holland Tunnel were all shut down by protestors for over an hour.

Traffic had been halted by around 9:30 a.m. and would not resume until approximately 11:15 a.m., when officers arrested protestors at the protest sites and traffic began to flow freely. According to the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Tarik Sheppard, the NYPD arrested 216 people and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey arrested 109 people. 

Like Black Lives Matter protests, which used the same tactic of disruption of traffic, the protestors called for an end to airstrikes in Gaza and raids by the Israeli military. Israel’s offensive in Palestine has killed almost 23,000 Palestinians. Many of those people are civilians.

Mon Mohapatra, a protestor at the Brooklyn Bridge, told Gothamist, “The point is disruption. We were trying to cause gridlock and traffic back-ups throughout downtown Manhattan at the same time. We were trying to scale up and we were trying to show that we’re a united front for Palestine…until there’s a permanent ceasefire.”

Other New Yorkers expressed frustration with the tactic of the protests, getting out of their vehicles to complain both to police and protestors as well as Gothamist.

Angel Morel, a 50-year-old sanitation worker, told the outlet, complained that his job had been placed in jeopardy after he had waited nearly an hour. “The citizens always pay at the end,” he said.

According to Reuters, New York Mayor Eric Adams agreed with the motorists who were upset with the protestors.

“The goal is to peacefully protest without doing major disruption to the city, some people are not just driving to and from, across our bridges to go to their place of employment, some of them are dealing with some real emergency-type issues,” he said.

Some demonstrators drew parallels between the Israel Defense Forces, the New York Police Department, and the Ku Klux Klan, chanting “NYPD, KKK, IDF they’re all the same,” while others carried banners reading “Lift the Siege on Gaza,” “Ceasefire Now,” and “End the occupation.”

“The siege on Gaza needs to end and I’m ready to put my body on the line to end it,” one protestor was heard saying on video as she was led away from the scene by a police officer, her hands behind her back. 

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