The NYPD was out in force last Wednesday for a planned demonstration by pro-Hamas protesters hoping to disrupt the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center, CBS News reported.
The NYPD increased security and deployed additional officers, knowing the protests could grow chaotic. Police set up barricades and maintained a police line to keep protesters from approaching Rockefeller Center and disrupting the event.
Despite the preparations, the protesters forced their way past the barricades and in some places surrounded and fought with police. Additional officers rushed down Sixth Avenue to 47th Street where protesters were clashing with police.
Protesters remained several blocks away from Rockefeller Center and the tree-lighting ceremony was able to continue unmolested.
NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey described the situation as “the ebb and flow of protests.” He told reporters that while the NYPD tries to keep calm and lets the protesters “exercise their right,” sometimes the demonstrations “get a little hectic” and the NYPD has to do its best to “keep everybody safe.”
Over a thousand pro-Hamas protesters turned up during last Wednesday’s demonstration, which organizers claimed would be peaceful.
Nardeen Kiswana from the group Within Our Lifetime said the demonstration was to call for the end of the bombing in Gaza and the “siege and blockade” that has placed “a chokehold on the Palestinian people.”
The NYPD arrested one protester who was charged with felony criminal mischief. Six others were detained and issued desk tickets. One of those, a 15-year-old, also received a juvenile report.
According to the NYPD, the protesters dispersed around 11:00 p.m. and no incidents took place at the tree-lighting ceremony itself.
Last Wednesday’s protest coincided with the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People, something that has been observed on November 29 since 1977, according to ABC News.