Monday, February 26, 2024

Hundreds of protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war streamed into Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan on Friday, in one of the largest protests New York City has seen since the start of the conflict three weeks ago.

The demonstration, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, came as Israel ramped up its military operations inside Gaza.

The protesters filled the train station, chanting, “Cease-fire now” and “Let Gaza live.” Most wore black shirts that read “Not in our name.” One police officer estimated that there were as many as 1,000 protesters.

Steve Auerbach, a pediatrician in the city, said he was concerned about the children caught in the middle of the conflict.

“This has to stop,” he said. “Calling for a cease-fire should be considered a mainstream, normative position.”

Banners declaring “Palestinians should be free” and “Israelis demand cease-fire now” were unfurled over stairwell banisters in the terminal.

“I don’t believe in this war,” said Rosalind Petchesky, 81, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace who was later taken into custody by police.

Sumaya Awad said she wanted the U.S. government to “follow the guidance and the wants of the majority of Americans.”

“We’re here engaging in civil disobedience to make it clear that we want the bombs to stop falling,” she said.

The protest disrupted the evening commute for thousands of people on Friday evening. Commuters walked by, some pausing, others looking confused. No train delays were reported because of the protest.

The police tried unsuccessfully to block the entrances to Grand Central, then stood and watched as demonstrators took over the main concourse.

By 7 p.m., with hundreds of protesters still in the station, the police told people to leave and began taking hundreds of protesters into custody. Soon after, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that it would not allow anyone to enter the terminal and designated two entryways as exits only.

A total of 335 people were taken into custody, according to the police on Saturday, and they were issued summonses for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

As the demonstration in the main concourse officially wound down, police officers used a lift to reach two protesters standing on a ledge above the ticket booths, in front of the departures board. They were holding a sign that said, in all capital letters, “Never again for anyone.”

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