Hundreds of Brooklynites waived Palestinian flags and held signs reading “right to return” and other slogans at a pro-Palestinian protest in Bay Ridge on Monday — hours after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem, and Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators at the border with Gaza.
One of the protest’s organizers said the neighborhood’s large Palestinian community welcomed the display of solidarity.
“A lot of people poured into the protest walking out of restaurants,” said Nerdeen Kiswani. “Seeing people who felt the same sentiments was amazing.”
The protest commemorated the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — which is how Palestinians refer to their displacement following the creation of Israel 70 years ago this week, and the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflicts.
Israelis celebrate their independence on May 14, while Palestinians typically mark the day with protests.
Monday’s demonstration on the corner of 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue was particularly charged after developments in Israel earlier that day. As the United States opened its embassy to Israel in a disputed Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 60 Palestinian protesters, mostly by gunfire, who were marching on the fence separating the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Israel. Some threw stones and tried to break through the barrier, according to Agence France-Presse.
The images of Trump administration officials celebrating the embassy’s opening in Jerusalem while the violence raged on in Gaza angered many at the Ridge protest.
“Ivanka and Jared were sipping champagne, and Jared was talking about peace while they were massacring people,” said Kiswani, who grew up in Bay Ridge.
Several pro-Palestinian groups organized the protest, including Within our Lifetime United for Palestine, which Kiswani cofounded. Around 300 attended, among them Bay Ridgites, activists, and even some Jewish groups, including Neturei Karta, a movement of Orthodox Jews who oppose the founding of Israel on religious grounds.
Palestinian activism is not new to Bay Ridge. Several of the country’s most notable activists are from the neighborhood, including Linda Sarsour, former head of the Ridge-based Arab American Association of New York. Displays of solidarity with the Palestinians are the norm there, said Kiswani.
“Bay Ridge is a stronghold of Palestinian identity,” he said. “It’s expressed in Bay Ridge much more than other places.”
One Borough Park protest attendee from the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist group that supports the liberation of Palestine, said she feels support for the Palestinian issue is gaining momentum in the borough and around the country, especially after May 14.
“Even pro-Israel groups had no choice but to speak out,” said Kayla Popuchet. “People are learning more about Palestinian history.”