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NYPD makes multiple arrests at anti-Hillel rally in Clivner=Field Plaza

NYPD+makes+multiple+arrests+at+anti-Hillel+rally+in+Clivner%3DField+Plaza
Alexandra Adelina Nita

CUNY student associations, including Baruch College Middle Eastern and North African Society and the CUNY Jewish Antizionist Collective joined other activist organizations to protest the presence of Hillel International, a Jewish campus organization on June 5.

The rally began at Clivner=Field Plaza outside Baruch College before demonstrators marched to CUNY’s university offices and dispersed at Grand Central. At least one counter protestor was arrested by the NYPD, including 10 pro-Palestine protestors, according to a statement by organizers.

Prior to the protest, organizers expressed their support for the five demands of City College of New York’s Students for Justice in Palestine which include that, “Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez condemn the genocide in Gaza,” and that CUNY adopt their “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Resolution” against “Zionist and Imperialist powers.”

CCNYSJP recently protested at a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting after the Board gave a $4 million no-bid contract to private security firm Strategic Security Corp. Strategic Security Corp CEO and President Joseph Sordi is a former NYPD sergeant whose website previously claimed he had received training in Israel.

The Board cited the “unsafe and hostile” situation at a City College Gaza encampment in April as its motivation for the contract in a May 9 resolution. Students at the  camp were assaulted and pepper sprayed by the NYPD after City College President Vincent Boudreau called for police presence. The NYPD arrested at least 173 students. They were charged with burglary felonies, with 10 cases proceeding in court and 7 recently dropped.

 

Alexandra Adelina Nita

Graphics announcing the protest accused Hillel of enabling genocide in reference to a trip it organized across several NYC campuses in January where students fed Israeli soldiers, dressed in military uniforms and toured Hatzerim Airbase.

On Oct. 7, 2023 an attack by Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages. Since the attack Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, including with bombs designed and funded by the United States used in combination with Israeli artificial intelligence programs.

A armed NYPD police presence assembled in the Clivner=Field Plaza in advance, joined by Campus Safety Officers. Two Baruch faculty members who were also at the plaza—Chief of Public Safety Robert Curry and Vice President for the Office of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs Wendy Steinberg—declined to comment on the NYPD’s presence, instead telling The Ticker that Baruch would make a written statement.

“Baruch supports the right of all individuals and groups to express their voices peacefully and respectfully, but we condemn the tenor of this rally because it is counter to Baruch’s value of mutual respect, essential to learning and working in a diverse community like ours,” Director of Public Relations Suzanne Bronski shared in a statement to The Ticker.

Baruch’s Office of the President S. David Wu shared a statement that contained identical language prior to the rally on June 5. Baruch Young Democratic Socialists of America, Baruch Students for Justice in Palestine and Baruch MENA issued a collaborative statement the same day.

“The contents of the email describe an increase in police presence and surveillance, reaffirm that the Baruch administration stands unconditionally with Hillel,” the statement said. “David Wu alleges that violence and harassment will not be tolerated when geared towards students, while ironically ignoring more than dozen formal complaints of hate speech/crimes committed against Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students since the Fall semester.”

Baruch MENA previously protested on similar grounds. They also shared a video of an attendee at a Hillel at Baruch vigil for those killed by the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 telling a Palestinian student, “I’ll kill you.”

Alexandra Adelina Nita

Pro-Palestinian protestors, who were largely college-age, wore keffiyeh in patterns symbolic of Palestine and some wore face masks. A few wore headbands associated with the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian armed group called Hamas that led the Oct. 7 attack. A banner featured the inverted red triangle, another symbol associated with Hamas.

Pro-Palestinian protestors included members of the small anti-Zionist Haredi Jewish group Neturei Karta. One of the group’s leaders, Yisroel Dovid Weiss, was intensely criticized by the anti-Zionist Hasidic group Satmar for attending a conference in Iran known to promote Holocaust denial in 2006.

One protester carried the flag of Vatican City, where the Pope has condemned Israel’s attacks on civilians in Gaza.

Alexandra Adelina Nita

Chants from the pro-Palestinian protestors included cries of, “Free Palestine!” and “Judaism yes, Zionism no, this occupation’s got to go!” and, “All the Zionists are racists!”

Many counter protestors had Israeli and American flags. One counter protestor carried the Palestinian flag covered by the word “RAPIST.” Another waved the flag of Chabad-Lubavitch, one of the world’s largest Hasidic groups

Counter protestors said, “There is no Palestine.”

They also shouted, “You’re the worst gay person in the world if you stand with Palestine, you’re worse than the KKK,” at gender-nonconforming pro-Palestinian protestors.

Counter protestors also used a transphobic slur to describe a pro-Palestinian protestor. One counter protestor then exposed her breasts at reporters.

LGBTQ+ students and activist groups have had a presence at recent pro-Palestinian protests and demonstrated at pride parades.

Counter protestors also shouted at pro-Palestinian protestors to take off their masks. North Carolina’s lawmakers recently approved a bill that increases penalties for protestors blocking traffic if they wear masks in response to their use at pro-Palestinian protests. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper must now either sign or veto it.

A previous version of the bill also punished mask wearing for medical reasons despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that COVID-19 infections are growing in at least 30 states. At least 6.8% of Americans are living with long COVID-19 symptoms that can become lifelong disabilities and pose the highest risk to people with pre-existing disabilities.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams recently expressed considering banning masking on subways in response to pro-Palestinian protestors’ masking, which drew sharp criticism from disabled New Yorkers and which legal experts say may be challenged as unconstitutional.

Protestors and counter protestors moved freely until counter protester Mark Greiz—an adjunct professor of international trade and marketing at SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology—assaulted a pro-Palestinian protestor and was arrested. After Greiz’s arrest, the NYPD placed barriers between the protestors and counter protestors.

The next arrest was of a pro-Palestinian protestor for using a megaphone. A counter protestor shouted sexually harassing language and expletives at the pro-Palestinian protestor as she was taken to an NYPD vehicle.

When pro-Palestinian protestors arrived at CUNY’s university offices, armed NYPD officers tackled them to prevent entry. Naveh Halperin, @subwaydj posted footage on Instagram showing a protestor’s shirt being torn off.

Protestors criticized the NYPD, yelling, “Oink, oink, piggy piggy” and one protestor used a pig-shaped squeaky toy as a noisemaker. They also chanted, “NYPD, KKK, IDF they’re all the same!”

Alexandra Adelina Nita

Pro-Palestinian protestors have criticized U.S. police departments for their financial ties to Israel, where many—including the NYPD—train. The NYPD signed a contract with Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest defense contractor in 2014, which also provides surveillance tools used by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the U.S.-Mexico border. Leaked files also show that U.S. law enforcement received intelligence directly from the Israeli military and received training on domestic “Muslim extremists” from pro-Israel groups for decades. During that time period, undercover NYPD agents also surveilled Muslim students at CUNY campuses, including Baruch.

Members and faculty of Baruch’s chapter of Hillel were at the rally. They did not respond to The Ticker’s request for a statement or interview.

Hillel International said, “We are not going anywhere,” in a statement on their Instagram on June 5.

“It is deeply hurtful that some Jews are being labeled as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad’ simply because of the way they express their Jewish identities—an inherently antisemitic exercise,” the statement read.

Baruch MENA declined to speak with The Ticker. It shared a collective statement in collaboration with four other pro-Palestinian CUNY student associations including the CUNY Jewish Antizionist Collective.

“It is clear that both the NYPD and the Zionist mob systematically targeted representatives of the most vulnerable groups within the crowd, singling out Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim youths as well as female protestors,” the statement said.

“These violent fascists do not scare us—we remain steadfast in our support for the CUNY Gaza solidarity encampment’s five demands, one of which specifically includes the severance of CUNY’s partnerships with Hillel International.”

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About the Contributors
Alexandra Adelina Nita
Alexandra Adelina Nita, Graphics Editor
Alexandra Adelina Nita is the Graphics Editor for The Ticker.
Mia Euceda
Mia Euceda, Arts & Culture Editor
Mia Euceda is the Arts and Culture Editor of The Ticker.
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