A Report by Within Our Lifetime
As Palestinians endure and resist a ruthless genocidal campaign, it is imperative now more than ever that we mobilize in defense of Palestinian freedom in every part of the world. For years we have witnessed the growing movement for Palestinian liberation here in New York City. In the wake of this ongoing genocide, New Yorkers have mobilized hundreds of thousands to flood the city for Gaza time and time again — taking over major roads, transportation hubs, and bridges while bringing our numbers to the doors of political offices, consulates, and corporations supporting the genocide of the Palestinian people. In light of mobilizations in solidarity with Palestine here and across the world, we have been facing a heightened landscape of severe political repression.
The NYPD — alongside the city, state, and federal governments — have grown desperate to stop us from taking to the streets and fighting for liberation. They have enhanced the use of surveillance technology, often the same technology the zionist occupation uses, to police our marches. They have engaged in aggressive, often illegal, tactics to attempt to scare us into backing down and quelling our numbers. They have regularly attacked protestors, including minors, with no reason for provoking such escalation. Beyond demonstrations, the government continually monitors and sensors individual speech and social media activity.
Our goals are simple: we seek to flood New York for Palestine in order to force a cessation of military aid to the zionist entity and to provide a space for Palestinians and their allies to build community and organization through, in part, mass street demonstrations, until every inch of Palestine is liberated. We do not aim to put anyone in danger, and our security protocols are carefully planned to avoid needless confrontations with law enforcement. However, as we have seen over the last three months, the police have met our protests with physical violence, baseless prosecutions, and intense and unprecedented surveillance.
Although Palestine is in the crosshairs of the police state today, the imperialist agenda aims to suppress all peoples’ liberation struggles. As we have seen in Standing Rock and #StopCopCity, these forces can and will be used to crush anyone standing in the way of US colonial and imperial expansion. We write this in order to document the uptick in repression and call upon people and organizations to stand alongside us and the movement for Palestinian liberation.
This moment feels familiar to us.
In the midst of our fight to resist genocide in Palestine, we have seen a new wave of government surveillance, harassment, and prosecution target our community due to their steadfast solidarity with Palestinians since October 7th. Part of our duty in fighting for the liberation of Palestine is to fight against the state repression that is being mobilized against our community and communities throughout New York. We hope this statement catalyzes a renewed drive for support, research, creative legal interventions, and dedication of resources towards that end.
SURVEILLANCE AND POLICE HARASSMENT
The NYPD has exponentially grown its capacity for surveillance in the past few months alone, and mobilizations for Palestine are their first large-scale test. Additionally, Governor Hochul recently put tens of millions of dollars into surveillance and political investigations, and has mobilized state police resources to go into the notorious Joint Terrorism Task Force. Hochul admitted that they are using several programs that rake through social media looking for particular “keywords” that could potentially trigger an investigation — eerily similar to the logic and tactics of the so-called “mosque crawlers” of the NYPD’s Demographic Unit who combed our neighborhoods in hopes of hearing certain “keywords.”
While the NYPD has owned drones for years, mobilizations since October 7th have made clear that the NYPD intends to make the flying of drones over protests and other political activity standard practice. In an article about our October 21 Bay Ridge protest, the NY Post lays bare what everyone already knew: the NYPD has used and will continue to use these drones to make arrests and surveil our protests. The Post claimed that by October 28, the police used drones 13 times to make arrests since mass mobilizations began in opposition to the genocide in Gaza. They also detailed how the footage from drones was “streamed to the Joint Operations Center at One Police Plaza in Manhattan, which notified an incident commander in the field” when we marched towards Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis’ office in Bay Ridge. While it was obvious to anyone paying attention that we were headed to her office, it is telling that the normally secretive NYPD surveillance regime is being so candid about their capabilities and intentions with surveillance tech. Yet, in 2023 alone, the NYPD dodged three hearings about the use of surveillance technology which were demanded of them by the City Council after their failure to comply with privacy laws. Unfortunately, the City Council has historically been too spineless to hold the police accountable or demand answers and transparency about this kind of technology. The Gothamist reported that the NYPD handed over drone footage to the District Attorney to aid in the prosecution of 158 people arrested at protests for Palestine.
The NYPD appears to favor a drone called the Axon Fotokite, a tether-based drone that connects to an SUV. We have observed the same two SUV’s bearing the license plates LCV-6778 and LCV-6779 carrying these drones at essentially every single protest. This is significant for several reasons. Firstly, videotaping First Amendment-protected activity without a reasonable belief that crime is about to occur and without having requested permission from an oversight board is in violation of the Handschu agreement which placed limits on the NYPD’s ability to surveil political activity. Secondly, the company that makes the drone, Axon, recently had its entire ethics board resign due to the company’s plans to attach tasers to drones. The NYPD has not been forthright about the capabilities of these kinds of drones. While they claim that they do not have facial recognition technology, “police can run drone footage through such software back at police headquarters, and use the results to pursue arrests.”
This drone usage did not fall out of the sky, and it is not disconnected from the fight for a free Palestine. In fact, last fall, Mayor Eric Adams met with the founders of two israeli drone companies to incorporate their technology into the NYPD’s arsenal, and traveled to occupied Palestine in order to learn more about the zionist regime’s use of drones against Palestinians so that it could be used on us, here in New York. He told reporters, “the method in which [the IDF is] using them, the methods in which they are training to use them, is what caught my interest.”
What’s more, the NYPD is reportedly engaged in a $500 million scheme to transition to fully encrypted radio systems — a move totally unprecedented in the history of the department. While they surveil us and hope to know everything about us and our communities, they insist we know nothing about what they do, what they are saying, or who they are spying on and why. Just days ago, Eric Adams vetoed a City Council resolution which would require police officers to publicly disclose investigatory encounters with civilians, a move which will allow the NYPD to continue surveiling individuals without any transparency or accountability. NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kay Daughtry recently posted a fascistic declaration to Twitter, threatening strict consequences against putting up stickers. Daughtry’s post marks a return to Broken Windows-style policing, targeting Black and Brown neighborhoods for surveillance and criminalization. The city promised to move away from this approach after de Blasio was elected, but Daughtry’s tweet suggests the NYPD is incapable of reforming and can switch to Giuliani-style policing at any time.
It has also become clear that the NYPD’s surveillance of social media accounts is widespread and enduring. It was recently revealed that the NYPD spent at least $8.5 million on surveillance technology from Voyager Labs to scrape social media in order to “reconstruct [people’s] entire digital lives.” The Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz signed a contract with the israeli company Cobweb Technologies, founded by israeli intelligence and special forces units, to do similar social media mapping. When New Yorkers call 911, their phone calls are recorded and analyzed by technology developed by Nice Systems, an israeli surveillance company, licensed to the NYPD, FDNY, and other emergency services.
We know that the NYPD also owns technology such as StingRays and Dirtboxes, although it is difficult to gauge whether they are currently being used to surveil us. StingRays are devices that allow the police to spy on phones in a given area, giving them access to an individual’s pinpoint location while collecting phone numbers that are being called or texted. We know that they have used these devices at least a thousand times without a warrant from 2008 to 2016 alone, including at protests. Even worse, NYPD Intelligence Bureau received a demo from the notorious israeli NSO Group for its Pegasus software – a surveillance tool that can easily obtain a target’s calls, contacts, emails, WhatsApp messages, location data, and even more.
SAME COPS, SAME PLAYBOOK
As part of the U.S.’s so-called War on Terror that attempted to destroy nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, the NYPD embarked on an aggressive surveillance program of the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in the New York tri-state area. Explicitly using the zionist state’s methods for surveilling and controlling people and neighborhoods, former CIA officers Larry Sanchez and David Cohen established the NYPD’s “Demographic Unit” in 2003.
The Demographics Unit mapped out 28 “ancestries of interest” — i.e. nationalities that make up Muslim neighborhoods, Masjids, Muslim Student Associations, cafes, and bookstores in New York for the express purposes of surveillance, entrapment, and instilling fear in our communities. Larry Sanchez admitted that he helped the NYPD develop the unit to model “Israeli methods of controlling the West Bank.” It “stretched beyond New York City, including surveilling areas of Connecticut, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and mosques within 100 miles of New York City.” The Unit ultimately infiltrated our student associations, communal spaces, and institutions from Bay Ridge to the West Bronx, generating a culture of fear to silence us from speaking out and defending our people — both here in New York and in the nations our families came from.
After a judge gave the NYPD a blank check to engage in political, ethnic, and religious-based surveillance in the wake of 9/11, police were allowed to open investigations against institutions like masjids for years without even suspecting that any criminal activity was occurring; they acted solely on the premise that there was “a possibility of unlawful activity.” They were allowed to retain any information from that surveillance so long as it related to “potential unlawful or terrorist activity,” (Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit, Apuzzo, Goldman, p. 132). We have attached to this page original documents regarding this surveillance obtained by an Associated Press investigation (as the links to the files on the AP website are offline and accessible only via Internet Archive). The documents include reports on Syrian, Egyptian, and Iranian communities in NYC, a Demographics Unit report on Muslim Student Associations, and an Intelligence Division’s briefing monitoring political organizations from 2008.
Years of incessant surveillance and infiltration by the New York Police Department continued before the Unit was dismantled by a lawsuit in 2014. In six years of spying, the Unit failed to generate a single lead or trigger a single terrorism investigation. The relaxed rules on surveillance made possible by the Handschu agreement authorized the NYPD “to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally,” so long as it was “for the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities.” In post-9/11 New York, blowing your nose while Muslim was enough to clear that hurdle. While the lawsuit technically placed limits on the NYPD’s spying powers, the modified Handschu guidelines maintain, to this day, the extremely low threshold for legally opening an investigation. All that is required is “the possibility of unlawful activity,” which can mean anything. However, even with the relaxed rules, the NYPD’s TARU unit routinely and brazenly violates the guidelines by flying drones over our heads at every protest, recording our every move in violation of the modified Handschu rules. In 2007, a judge reminded the NYPD that they “can investigate, and videotape, political events only if it believes unlawful activity may occur and only after it has applied for permission from an oversight panel.”
David Cohen, the head architect of the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau resigned in disgrace in 2013. His successor, John Miller, recently testified in a City Council hearing just last year about the surveillance program. While under oath, he denied that the NYPD ever “inappropriately deployed spies in mosques to entrap people,” even after lawsuits and a Pulitzer Prize-winning book was written on the subject. While Miller and Cohen tried to gaslight our community about the existence and reality of NYPD spying in our neighborhoods, there is a new appointee to the position as of July 2023: Rebecca Ulam Weiner. Weiner joined the NYPD in 2006 and oversaw the Counterterrorism Operation and Analysis Section. She was likely one of the analysts working to process and implement the data raked from the Demographics Unit’s spying program, although she denied this to the New York Times. It remains to be seen how she will orient the Intelligence apparatus of the NYPD, but there is no reason to expect a departure from the Cohen and Miller approach.
Beyond New York City, similar tactics by the FBI and local law enforcement all around the country followed the NYPD’s lead and routinely surveilled Muslim communities. The Holy Land Foundation Five (HLF5) were sentenced using draconian anti-Palestinian material support charges with the same logic of the Demographics Unit. For the crime of feeding orphans in Gaza, Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashy, and Mufid Abdulqader remain incarcerated in federal prisons today.
Before and after the Demographics Unit, the NYPD cultivated a deep relationship with the zionist state unrivaled by any other police department in the United States. The NYPD has an office in a Tel Aviv settlement that was built on the rubble of the destroyed Palestinian village Kafr Saba, regularly shares intelligence with, and trains alongside zionist forces. The relationship is reciprocal, and the NYPD has even conducted surveillance in New York at the occupation’s request. The two entities remain closely in communication today. During a recent presentation, Rebecca Weiner boasted that the Manhattan South office has received “hourly updates” from the coordinator of the NYPD’s Tel Aviv precinct since October 7, ensuring that the militarized force cracking down on our protests at this moment is working in concert with the militarized force committing a genocide in Gaza.
Since October, Within Our Lifetime has mobilized dozens of actions in every borough and New York has seen hundreds take place, flooding the streets for Palestine on a daily basis. The response from the New York Police Department, the City government, the State government, and congressional officials has been predictable. They aim to dox, arrest, beat, or scare us into submission in order to push us off our streets. Indeed, NYPD top brass have repeatedly told WOL police negotiators that they send only a third of police officers to other organizations’ protests in comparison to ours. That means for every 100 cops at a non-WOL protest, there are 300 at ours. Our mobilizations are representative of the community we come from — we chant لا إله إلا الله والشهيد حبيب الله and defiantly pray Salah on the streets of New York in front of police lines. We can only infer that the NYPD’s singling out of our organization is a targeted response to our community as a whole, keeping with the NYPD’s tradition of islamophobia and illegal repression of Muslims and Arabs in New York.
While each action we have led contained different combinations of repressive tactics, the majority have ended without arrests. However, there are numerous incidents of outright NYPD brutality that demand attention.
The NYPD is divided into eight “Patrol Borough Commands” — Manhattan South and North, Brooklyn South and North, Queens South and North, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Since October 7th, every single Patrol Borough Command has been engaged in the repression of our marches. We believe it is important for organizers to understand this structure as each Patrol Borough has its own leadership and policing style at protests. All that the NYPD repression accomplishes is cementing in the minds of New Yorkers and the world the truth that they already know: the NYPD is a violent, repressive force that exists to protect the ruling class and property over anything else.
Don't let your protest be the one used by NYPD as an example of a good protest that they don't even need many cops for.— Ash J (@AshAgony) January 14, 2024
If NYPD sends an army of cops to repress your protest, it means, at the very least, that they take your protest seriously. https://t.co/NOYO8YpDEq
The NYPD is a different kind of police department than any in the world. It is the only one with an intelligence agency attached to it. It has a branch in the zionist settlement Kfar Saba, staffed by NYPD Officer Charlie Ben-Naim, himself a zionist settler. From 2003 to 2007, Mordechai Dzikansky of the NYPD began the NYPD’s Intelligence Division Overseas Liaison program to the zionist entity. His role was to gather intelligence and relay information to New York City in order to “enhance the Department’s ability to recognize, react to, and prevent or recover from terrorist acts […] and work with senior members of the [i]sraeli intelligence community on joint investigations which connected New York City and the state of [i]srael.” It has other offices and liaisons in Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, the Hague, Lyon, Madrid, Amman, Doha, Singapore and Sydney. It has a lobbying arm called the New York Police Foundation which is funded by the United Arab Emirates and private donors. UAE donations have specifically gone towards “upgrad[ing] NYPD equipment and facilities used to aid in criminal investigations throughout New York City.” With said upgraded equipment and facilities, the NYPD has attempted to stifle our efforts to mobilize, put protestors in danger, and threaten organizers.
Below, we have detailed a number of actions from the last three months during which Within Our Lifetime organizers, alongside thousands of protesters, have experienced police harassment, state-sanctioned violence, and severe political repression.
Bay Ridge: October 21, 2023
On October 21, we took the streets of Bay Ridge, the largest Palestinian and Arab neighborhood in New York. Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets and demonstrated, yet again, that Brooklyn stands with Palestine. We witnessed persistent surveillance throughout the march where several of the NYPD’s new drones watched our every move, turn, and stop using cameras equipped with 200x zoom designed to identify individuals within a crowd.
At the very end of the march, when we had only a fraction of our original numbers, the NYPD blocked us off on Fifth Avenue and 67th Street — about a block before Leif Ericson Park. The NYPD, commanded at the time by Brooklyn South Patrol Borough Commander Charles McEvoy and Lieutenant Michael Butler (pictured here), demanded that we get off the street and disperse. We demanded they move to the side, and they refused. They issued a five-minute warning, insisting that a densely-packed march of thousands rapidly clear an already crowded area. Before time even expired, as people were trying to abide by the NYPD’s unreasonable directive to get on the sidewalk and disperse, the NYPD attacked.
5/— DataInput (@datainput) October 22, 2023
First 4 arrests seen.
5th Avenue at 67th Street
National Day of Action,
Flood Brooklyn for Palestine,
End U.S. Sponsored Genocide in Gaza
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NYC, Saturday, October 21, 2023.#nyc pic.twitter.com/MqIawj0iVc
Cops were caught on camera swinging punches, throwing people to the ground, and engaging in what was essentially a police riot led by Commander McEvoy. After the first round of arrests, the police pushed us onto the sidewalk and confiscated our pickup truck with our belongings inside. Despite being on the sidewalk, a legally protected place to continue a protest, the police persisted in their assault and continued making arrests. Meanwhile, at least one of the NYPD helicopters that had been surveilling our march made dramatic and reckless low-flying swoops in an attempt to get us to disperse — a practice that is explicitly banned by the settlement agreement currently in limbo between the police and the ACLU. NYPD from multiple precincts, the TARU Unit, the Strategic Response Group, NYPD Field Intelligence, and Counterterrorism units were all present on the scene. Once the dust settled, the cops arrested dozens of people, including several minors, and left multiple people with injuries. The NYPD’s brutality was met with swift condemnation from the Palestinian and Muslim communities; organizations like the Muslim American Society, the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY, and the Arab American Association of NY issued statements demanding accountability.
Columbus Circle to Grand Central: November 6, 2023
In Manhattan, the NYPD followed a similar playbook on November 6th. We led a march that took us from Columbus Circle to Times Square, and all the way to the doors of Grand Central Station. Once again, the police did not begin a confrontation until the very end, when only a fraction of our numbers were left. The NYPD, this time led by Patrol Borough Manhattan South Deputy Chief Timothy Beaudette, again attacked — arresting minors and sending people to the hospital. One individual was handcuffed, knocked unconscious, and carried off to a barricaded space where they did not receive medical attention for over 30 minutes. These arrests happened after we began dispersing. There was no reason from any perspective for the police to begin making arrests. If not for their aggression, the protest would have ended without incident. After the attack, the MTA completely shut down Grand Central for protestors and pedestrians alike, leaving many stranded in Manhattan with no way to get home.
Staten Island: November 14, 2023
On November 14, the police engaged in the same pattern as in Brooklyn and Manhattan, this time in Staten Island. After a historic march where protestors flooded the roadway approaching the Ferry Terminal, the police, led by Patrol Borough Staten Island Commander Joseph Gulotta, again waited until after we began dispersing before initiating a confrontation. Suddenly, protestors, yet again including minors, were thrown on the floor and put in handcuffs minutes after the closing chants. Just as was the case in previous actions, the protest would have ended without incident had the police not made the baseless decision to attack. Notable in this action was the presence of the “Community Response Unit,” a plainclothes street crime unit that is rarely, if ever, deployed to protests.
NYPD arresting a second protester minutes after the first arrest above. Again, the protest was already dispersing when NYPD escalated.— Isabelle Leyva (@isabelle_leyva) November 15, 2023
Please note the two cops who come into frame towards the end- one in a hoodie, one in a backwards cap. pic.twitter.com/DWeGLMd4Cw
Bay Ridge: November 18, 2023
On November 17, we returned to Bay Ridge, this time on 86th Street and 4th Avenue. We were determined to return to the intersection where they attacked us on October 21 and move along to Sunset Park, as was our original intention. The police response was coordinated again by Commander Charles McEvoy, this time without Lieutenant Butler. Perhaps he thought better of attending after he was humiliated for using his personal Instagram account to surveil our members’ accounts. While we made it through to Sunset Park and dispersed without arrests, McEvoy found a way to make his disdain for the community felt. After being told to give us space for our evening prayer/Salah, McEvoy informed the community that he “won’t move an inch.”
As promised, he really did not move an inch. He instead positioned himself in the middle of the prayer, directly in front of people praying Salah. His subordinates circled the congregation in an attempt to intimidate our march, evoking memories of the Demographics Unit-era relationship between the NYPD and Muslims in New York City.
It’s important to note that both Manhattan South Commander Charles McEvoy and Staten Island Commander Joseph Gulotta are less than a year into their promotions as Patrol Borough Commanders. Their behavior is evidently an attempt to prove themselves to their subordinates and to Mayor Eric Adams, who has made his position on the Palestinian genocide abundantly clear.
Madison Square Park to New York Public Library: November 23, 2023
City officials were noticeably agitated after we announced a protest to flood Manhattan during Thanks
givingtaking on November 23, in solidarity with Palestine and all Indigenous people resisting colonialism everywhere. Concerned about the Macy’s Day Parade and securing their holiday shopping profits, Macy’s CEO and Chairman Jeff Gennette, Mayor Eric Adams, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, and NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism Martine Materasso convened a press conference the night of November 22 to announce they had “been on high alert since Oct. 7” and would “not tolerate any disruption” to the Macy’s Day Parade. Notably, this came days after the NYPD disclosed they had further militarized themselves, admitting to committing one additional “supervisor and eight uniformed officers on standby” to every police precinct in response to the recent pro-Palestine mobilizations.
Nevertheless, thousands of New Yorkers defied their intimidation and rallied in support of Indigenous liberation for hours. After protestors powerfully took to the steps of the New York City Public Library to close out and organizers announced the action was officially over, the police again attacked while we tried to disperse. Police arbitrarily plucked protestors out of the crowd and beat them while dragging them down the stairs, posing a serious safety risk to all present.
After violently arresting a handful of young protestors, including a teenager, Patrol Borough Manhattan South Deputy Chief Timothy Beaudette could be heard overwhelmed and calling out for the SRG. His boss, Assistant Chief James McCarthy, arrived at the action to further terrorize protestors. Over one hundred police officers organized themselves into lines and resolved to occupy the streets from 40th and 42nd in order to intimidate protestors while they tried to make their way to the train.
The police closed all the subway entrances closest to the Library, following a pattern at recent actions of preventing pro-Palestinian protestors from traveling home. Notably, this often takes place while the NYPD arbitrarily assesses who is not with the Palestine protests and allows them onto the subway in front of our very own eyes, clearly demonstrating the NYPD’s ongoing profiling of and discrimination against Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim protestors and individuals.
Rockefeller Center: November 29, 2023
After we announced an action to Flood the Rockefeller Tree Lighting for Palestine, the right-wing press went on yet another frenzy of fear mongering. The New York Post published no less than six separate articles about the action.
Rebecca Weiner, the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism at the NYPD, went on CBS News the night before the action to essentially threaten protestors into staying home. While discussing our protest, she told CBS “we can’t tolerate disruption, we can’t tolerate destruction, and we certainly are not going to tolerate any violence.” Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry, who previously bragged to the NY Post that his drones played a role in arresting our people in Bay Ridge on October 21, joined Weiner to further tout the NYPD’s drone capabilities and indicated that they would be deployed during the protest.
What’s more, the NYPD published a list of items that would be prohibited at the Rockefeller tree lighting. Notably, they included a catch-all category of “any other item(s) that can obstruct or interfere with another spectator’s enjoyment of the event.” Constitutionality of the prohibition aside, we can only assume that flags, banners, and other First Amendment-protected protest materials fell within this category.
We will not concede that it is normal, appropriate, or an indication of a healthy society when the head of the counterterrorism division at the New York Police Department goes on television the night before a political demonstration to intimidate demonstrators. Weiner began her tenure at the NYPD’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism unit with an aggressive surveillance regime against political protests with drones and other high-tech surveillance equipment. Now, she has attempted to intimidate New Yorkers publicly on television before we take to the streets. So far, her approach to policing seems to be in line with her predecessors Cohen and Miller when it comes to the Muslim and Arab community: Surveil, surveil, and surveil, with the hopes of chilling our speech and forcing us into silence in the face of our people’s genocide.
It did not work, and thousands of us flooded the streets for Palestine the next day. However, the police were clearly agitated, nervous, and understaffed. Their feeble attempts to keep us on the sidewalks quickly devolved into shutting down Sixth Avenue altogether when it was clear that the number of demonstrators was far more than their would-be kettles could fit. They arrested roughly seven people arbitrarily — some were arrested for allegedly moving a barricade, others were violently pushed and pepper sprayed by what seemed to be panicked police officers. Nothing unruly had actually occurred, but the police knew they had no control over the situation as there were far more demonstrators than the police could handle. Patrol Borough Manhattan South Commander James McCarthy led the police response, although “led” may be an overstatement as the response was inconsistent, amateur, and clearly the work of a department in crisis.
Astoria to the United Nations: December 16, 2023
On the 16th of December, we returned to the Arab community in Astoria on Steinway Street to Flood Queens for Palestine. As we congregated and prepared to march, Community Affairs Detective Haaris Hamid of Queens North quickly grew hysterical as he attempted to stop us from marching. The Strategic Response Group was rapidly mobilized and we were initially prevented from marching at all. Queens North Borough Commander Christine Bastedenbeck was on the scene and pivoted from telling us we could not march to telling us that we could not march with our pickup truck.
However, thousands of people were on Steinway at that point — the police were accomplishing nothing but creating a hazard, while steadily escalating tensions by keeping us in a confined area. Detective Hamid tried snatching our banners and began attacking people, but Queens remained unyielding to their intimidation. We refused to concede to their unfair demands and community leaders let the cops know they had to get out of the way. Finally, after about an hour of tense back and forth, they complied and retreated. We continued our march down to Sunnyside and towards Long Island City. Once we arrived at CUNY School of Law, Detective Hamid — who continually kept losing his composure — along with his partner Sgt. Michael Murphey played a classic “good cop, bad cop” routine. They repeatedly pivoted between threatening to shut us down and saying we could continue our march with no issues so long as we told them where we were going. We marched to Queensboro Plaza where we prayed Salah, then took the roadway on Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan.
Once we got into Manhattan, the command of the NYPD’s response switched from Queens North to Manhattan South, the territory of James McCarthy, Timothy Beaudette, and Joel Mottola. As soon as we got into the city, Manhattan South immediately escalated the situation and two people were baselessly arrested. The NYPD aimed pepper spray canisters directly at our faces and threatened to press the button on 2nd Avenue and 57th Street. We quickly pivoted towards the direction of the United Nations, where the police attempted to block us from reaching the highway. Since they blocked the highway entrance, we flooded the entrance of the United Nations right up to the gates and closed out the action. It was a particularly appropriate place to end as, only days before, during the U.N. General Assembly’s ceasefire vote, Sgt. Mottola prevented us from gathering on the east side of United Nations Plaza directly in front of the headquarters and forced us onto the opposite side of the street.
Right as we were directing people to disperse, Sgt. Mottola became hysterical again and made moves to either turn off or confiscate our sound equipment while the SRG bikers began surrounding the mobilization. Mottola’s boss, Assistant Chief McCarthy, told him to calm down, and we dispersed without incident.
In the past several weeks, Community Affairs officers, particularly Joel Mottola, have been the most unhinged and undisciplined NYPD officers amid the entire police response. Anytime there has been a scuffle or arrest in the past few actions, Mottola has been in the mix, instigating chaos in an otherwise normal situation that does not warrant any escalation from the police.
It is notable that Community Affairs officers like Hamid and Mottola act the most violently while their position in the NYPD ostensibly requires them to maintain a good relationship with NYC communities and improve the public image of the NYPD. Hamid and Mottola are doing the opposite.
Grand Central / Moynihan Train Hall / DKNY IDF Fundraiser: December 18, 2023
Two days after Astoria, we heeded the call from Palestine to participate in the Global Strike for Gaza. Actions took place all throughout New York City — in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island — before all converging inside Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Contingents took their rallies into the train system on their way to Grand Central, and transformed the subway cars into freedom trains while covering all of New York with artwork and chants for a liberated Palestine.
From the very beginning, the NYPD and MTA Police Department’s orientation to the day of action was clear. They immediately blocked entrances to Grand Central and prevented contingents from reaching the central area where the protest was due to begin. While some groups were blocked outside the station, a core of protestors successfully made their way into the station and began the action. Little by little, the action reached a critical mass and the cops could no longer blockade whole groups of protestors without shutting down the entire station.
The commanding officer of the MTA was on the scene and demanded that protestors leave the station before 3:05 (the protest was scheduled to start at 3:00), or else they would begin arresting us. We negotiated for the police to hold off until 3:15 and made our way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. By the time we arrived, the Terminal was completely barricaded. Port Authority police and the NYPD blocked entrances to both protestors and travelers alike as we circled the complex.
By the time we made it to Penn Station, the third stop on our march, the transportation hub was once again locked down, similar to Grand Central and Port Authority. Law enforcement was clearly ready for us to attempt to enter Penn Station, as was publicly announced on our flyer promoting the rally. What they were not prepared for, however, was a quick left on 8th Avenue into Moynihan Train Hall instead of a right turn into Penn Station. The police constraints paled in comparison to the will of the people and we succeeded in flooding the hall, where we prayed Salah and disrupted the flow of commuter traffic. The cops surrounded us on bicycles and made at least two violent arrests in Moynihan.
It did not take long after we left Moynihan for the police to make another baseless arrest on the streets, instigated by Assistant Chief McCarthy and Inspector Aaron Edwards of the 17th Precinct, because of a sticker.
That day, an anonymous collective called to protest Donna Karon’s disgusting “Friends of the IDF” fundraiser for the genocidal zionist military on 705 Greenwich Street. As we approached the location to join them, the cops hurried to barricade both sides of the street. The barricades trapped some of our protestors, once again creating an unnecessary, volatile situation. The fact that we were disrupting the fundraiser filled with rich genocide apologists clearly enraged the NYPD. At that point, the police severely escalated their tactics and made more physically violent and brutal arrests. We took the march to the West Side Highway, stretching police resources thin, before dispersing at Washington Square Park.
This march in particular was characterized by a heavy presence of undercover police officers. Journalists documented at least ten separate undercovers, some of whom were wearing keffiyehs and sporting “Ceasefire Now” buttons. Officers present on the scene included Detective Specialist Yakov Kaushanskiy, who assaulted women and verbally harassed protestors — he was protected by the ever-aggressive Joel Mottola and Sgt. Matthew O’Brien. The NYPD’s use of undercover cops at our protests echoes the zionist occupation’s utilization of the “Mista’arvim” unit (musta’arabeen in Arabic, which translates to “those who become Arabs”), a specialized unit of israeli soldiers who disguise themselves as Palestinian and infiltrate communities throughout the West Bank in order to surveil our people. Zionists have utilized this tactic since before the Nakba of 1948, when the Haganah militia (which became a cornerstone of the zionist state) established the unit in order to thwart Palestinians’ attempts to resist the zionist ethnic cleansing campaign. For decades, this unit has been operating clandestinely and facilitating the imprisonment and murder of countless Palestinians. It is no surprise that the NYPD would imitate such a strategy, not only planting their officers within our protests but intentionally disguising them as part of our movement, seeing as they train alongside the occupation forces and learn how to repress popular uprisings from them.
Christmas is Canceled at Rockefeller Center: December 25, 2023
On Christmas day, we responded to the call from priests in Bethlehem, Gaza, and all of Palestine to mobilize in defense of our land, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Thousands of people flooded the streets from Rockefeller Center to Union Square. We marched carrying a statue of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus, who was in a body bag, surrounded by rubble — evoking images of the thousands of children that the zionist entity is killing in Gaza.
Yet again, the fascist NYPD responded to the mobilization with ever-increasing violence and baseless arrests with inflated charges. Right as we closed out, the NYPD began a Level 3 mobilization (the second highest that exists in the NYPD), which requires all special units to be called into the area as squad cars are sent out from every command center in the city.
NYPD were again caught on film beating people until they bled, separating fathers from children, deploying pepper spray, and attempting to snatch sound equipment from organizers and protestors alike. Sgt. Mottola was caught repeatedly instigating violence and escalating tensions after he was filmed engaging in the exact same behavior the day before in Washington Square Park during our caravan rally, and the week prior at the United Nations. Mottola was caught on camera stealing a megaphone from a young woman and pushing her to the ground. In a separate incident, he hysterically called for his fellow officers to tase an injured protester who was already on the ground with several officers on top of him. Another Community Affairs cop, Eric C. Yudt of Manhattan South, punched and kneed young people who were simply standing and waving the flag of Palestine. Women wearing hijabs were put into headlocks and fathers were beaten and bloodied in front of their children as the NYPD proved their undying legacy of brutalizing marginalized communities. On Christmas Day, New Yorkers who stood up for freedom, justice, and a love for humanity were met with persecution, hatred, and police brutality.
There is a reason that we chant “NYPD, KKK, IDF you’re all the same.” The same NYPD that beats us in the streets and surveils our community also trains with the genocidal israeli occupation forces. Their Intelligence Bureau’s vast spying program against the Muslim community was explicitly inspired by zionist counterinsurgency doctrine in the West Bank — a history that is described in detail above.
The next day, on December 26, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams condemned the action and complained that he does not think protestors should be allowed to take over the streets, the bridges, Grand Central, or Times Square. He claimed that the police acted with “great restraint” on Christmas, despite New York bearing witness to what is possibly the most police violence and mobilization we have seen since the George Floyd protests.
No matter how much the police department and the Mayor’s Office try to scare us off of our own streets, we will not back down until every inch of Palestine is liberated.
Zuccotti Park: December 28, 2023
At the Zuccotti Park action shortly before the New Year, demonstrators gathered throughout lower Manhattan and shut down the park, Wall Street, the Oculus, and the BNY Mellon building on Greenwich Street.
The demonstration proceeded and concluded without any arrests or particular violence from the NYPD, although they blocked off the Oculus and prevented us from gathering there. However, Assistant Chief Timothy Beaudette found a way to further repress and surveil our community. During the closing of the protest, Beaudette told organizers that he was going to bring Child Protective Services to the next protest, as he witnessed children participating in the demonstration. Children are an integral part of our communities’ political expression, and our rallies are spaces for our youth and our elders alike. We refuse to accept the fear mongering tactics of the NYPD who try to split up our people.
There is a dearth of literature describing the experiences of families who have been broken apart by the racist child welfare system, namely the Administration for Children’s Services, in New York City. Top brass of the NYPD utilizing that racist violence as a form of political repression against Palestinians and Muslims is a new, yet unsurprising low for the police department. It’s clear that the police force will use any type of repression to stop us. But they will not be successful.
JFK Airport: January 1, 2024
On the first day of 2024, New York mobilized for our people in Palestine by organizing an action at John F. Kennedy Airport demanding an end to the genocide of the Palestinian people. Protestors also used the symbolic site of the airport to uplift the right of return and freedom of movement for Palestinians — to live free from siege, blockade, occupation, and colonization. JFK International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Wall Street, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bridge, and both sides of the Brooklyn Bridge were all shut down on the same day.
While Palestinians are denied the right of return, zionists in New York can freely travel to and from occupied Palestine, regularly flying out of Terminal 4 at JFK. Soldiers in the “Israeli Defense Forces” have flown out of Terminal 4 en masse over the course of the past 90 days, as Israel has massacred 30,000 Palestinians, including over 11,000 children. Though these soldiers have traveled with the intent to participate in the genocide of Palestinians, the New York Times reports they have received special security and protection from JFK airport, Port Authority, and the U.S. Army.
Before the action, law enforcement closed nearly all entrances to and from JFK to all people who did not have a boarding pass. As early as noon, two hours before the action was due to begin, the Airtrain in both Howard Beach and Jamaica were shut down. Passengers with boarding passes were allowed onto the Airtrain in Jamaica; those traveling from Howard Beach were forced onto shuttle buses at Federal Circle, creating lines of hundreds, if not thousands, of people waiting.
On the expressway, law enforcement closed multiple exits, and set up checkpoints to terminals. Police forced each car to roll down their windows and present proof of boarding pass before they were allowed through. Armored vehicles and hundreds of law enforcement assets were seen present throughout Van Wyck Expressway. People wearing keffiyehs or holding Palestinian flags were removed from Terminal 4 by police. Meanwhile, travelers were seen exiting their cars and walking on the expressway to reach the airport. In essence, the NYPD and PAPD disrupted the operations of JFK more than we could have done ourselves. Law enforcement was willing to cause this level of havoc so long as it meant that protesters would not be able to have their voices heard at the terminals.
Political expression at JFK is not without precedent. In 2017, thousands of protestors rallied for days in the airport in protest of then-President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. While the Port Authority initially shut down the Airtrain, Governor Cuomo ordered it to be re-opened so that “New Yorkers [could] have their voices heard.” The political establishment in this city is willing to encourage protest and disruption when it scores them political points against their Republican rivals, but not when New Yorkers raise their voices against the ongoing genocide in Palestine. Without the militarization of the Van Wyck Expressway and Airtrain, travelers outside Terminal 4 would likely have reached their destination far more easily. Instead, 60 flights were delayed. After leaving JFK and LGA airports, protestors flooded Wall Street in Manhattan before continuing the disruption by taking the Brooklyn Bridge by foot.
Hands Off Yemen: January 12, 2024
On January 12th, we returned to Manhattan to flood the streets in defense of Yemen after it was attacked by U.S. and U.K. cruise missiles in retaliation for Yemen’s defense of Palestine. Before we even arrived at the Yemeni consulate, all surrounding streets near to the consulate were closed to pedestrian traffic, and residents were forced to show their ID with proof of address before being allowed past the barricades. This meant that the NYPD blocked off our access to the consulate, where we had planned to show a demonstration of solidarity with Yemen’s heroic and historic efforts to protect the people of Palestine. We had planned to drop off flowers and messages of support in front of the consulate to send the message that we, in the belly of the beast, reject the U.S. empire’s attempt at crushing the protectors of Palestine. However, Timothy Beaudette of Manhattan North refused to let us through. He told us that we were not allowed through because he was convinced we would be spray painting or defacing the Yemeni consulate — despite the fact that it was obvious we were there in support of Yemen, and had no reason to deface the building. We marched to the United Kingdom consulate, the U.S. mission to the U.N., and the United Nations to ensure our message would be heard, and when we returned to the Yemeni consulate, the barricades remained in place.
We do not buy Beudette’s reasoning. As mentioned, the NYPD is no normal police force. It has offices in the cities of our oppressors, and has been funded by the same state that has dropped bombs on Yemen in years past — the United Arab Emirates. In front of the police lines across from the consulate, Beudette explicitly told us that the NYPD targets our organization by sending 300% more cops to our mobilizations than other organizations’ protests. It is clear to us that the NYPD will not tolerate anti-imperialist Muslim political expression, for these reasons and more.
MLK Day March for Healthcare: January 15, 2024
On January 15th, we flooded Manhattan once again for MLK Day, focusing on the healthcare crisis in Palestine. At least 337 medics and rescue workers have been targeted and killed, dozens of hospitals have been destroyed with only 8 left partially functioning, including the most recent attack on Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. In New York, hospitals have fired, threatened, and turned down job offers to healthcare workers who have vocalized support for Palestine. We began our march at 14th Street and made it all the way to 103rd Street, near Mount Sinai Hospital.
Upon arrival to Gracie Mansion, the luxurious home of New York’s least-favorite zionist, Mayor Eric Adams, the police were ready and had blocked off our way to the mansion which is normally publicly accessible. As we were preparing to pray Salah, the police attacked. They violently threw a minor to the ground and arrested him for the alleged crime of sitting on a mailbox. This was the territory of Manhattan North’s Ruel Stephenson. Stephenson was caught on film telling the teenager to get off the mailbox because it was “federal property,” and when he moved too slow for Stephenson’s liking, he shouted for his underlings to grab him, which they did, violently. Stephenson was also filmed telling officers to “keep on eye on this one, he’s gonna be the first one we take” in reference to a protester who was simply filming the police. Only two blocks later, the police allowed a car to drive through protestors, risking serious injury to people at the march. This indicates that the NYPD’s targeting of our demonstrations has nothing to do with spray painting or property damage. Sitting on a mailbox or filming the cops is enough for the NYPD to physically assault you if you are standing for Palestine in front of the Mayor’s mansion.
Midtown Manhattan: January 26, 2024
On Friday, January 26, New Yorkers flooded Manhattan for Gaza, planning to protest in front of a number of offices belonging to companies and organizations who we hold responsible for the ongoing genocide in Gaza. These included AIPAC, Friends of the IDF, and entities affiliated with Elbit Systems.
Before the rally even began, the NYPD, led by Timothy Beaudette and Joel Mottola, threatened organizers if we even attempted to utilize sound amplification (something that we have been able to do without issue for over 3 months straight). They insisted that they would arrest anyone on the mic and impound our equipment.
The baseless reasoning behind the threat was that we did not get a sound permit for our protest, something that we have not done in almost 10 years of organizing in New York, yet we have always been able to use sound. We refuse to fund and abide by the bureaucratic demands of a state that brutalizes our people in the streets while paying for the bombs being dropped on our people in Gaza right now.
The permit system in general is outdated and unjust, essentially serving to give the NYPD a reason to crack down on popular movements because organizers did not get permission from the government to protest. No major political movement in history that has seriously threatened the authority of this empire did so by abiding by the dictates of its repressive arm.
We proceeded to lead chants without any amplification, although the NYPD kept their eyes on the speaker system the entire time. As police remained focused on our chanting for a free Palestine, multiple zionist agitators attempted to attack our rally. They continually got in protestors’ faces, attempting to instigate an altercation, and the police took their time stepping in. Before we had even started marching, they arrested five protestors who were being verbally assaulted and threatened by zionist counter-protestors.
Eventually, we took over the streets and began marching south towards AIPAC, not using our speaker system as the flood of protestors continued chanting. We arrived at the offices of Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a stakeholder in LondonMetric, Elbit System’s landlord in the UK. As we spoke out about this site’s complicity in genocide, dozens of NYPD officers immediately rushed at organizers for allegedly using sound amplification. They began chasing down WOL chair, Nerdeen Kiswani, before aggressively arresting her along with other protestors, including WOL’s police negotiator, even though Timothy Beaudette could be heard admitting that the police did not have any cause to arrest them. Male officers roughly grabbed and pushed her around, a violent image we have seen many times as the NYPD continually brutalizes visibly Muslim women at our rallies. The police seemed to perp walk Nerdeen to their van before preparing to drive to 1 Police Plaza.
At the same time as they targeted Nerdeen, the NYPD was threatening to arrest any protestor who did not get onto the sidewalk immediately. They were demanding a large mass of people rapidly move to a cramped sidewalk while causing chaos by running through the crowd to grab a particular individual — the police created a situation of panic and put protestors at risk of being trampled in a matter of minutes. After forcefully pushing protestors away from the van where they had taken the arrestees, the police drove off as the march commenced.
We flooded the street once again and continued marching south, defying the NYPD’s aggression. Protestors continued using megaphones until Beaudette threatened to arrest anyone using any amplified sound, but the crowd continued chanting unbothered. As police attempted pushing us off of the street once again, blocking the street with a series of NYPD mopeds, we stood our ground until making a turn past the barricade and eventually closed out at Madison Square Park.
Reflecting on the arrest later, Nerdeen Kiswani wrote on her now-deleted Instagram account:
On the day of the ICJ ruling that “Israel” is committing genocide in Gaza, and one day after Within Our Lifetime released a 60 page report exposing the repressive tactics of the NYPD against Palestine protests, I was arbitrarily arrested along with other WOL comrades and protesters. Israel and all of its supporters are getting exposed. Their time is coming to an end.
Palestine will be free within our lifetime. We are in the belly of the beast and the beast lashes out the most before it’s taken down.
You can arrest me, beat me, threaten me, interrogate me, dox me, harass me, and it’s all an honor! Nothing will come even close to the sacred blood of the martyr that was unjustly spilled by the most evil oppressive force there is on this earth.
For all of those asking if I’m okay, of course I am. As long as I fight for my people, and I have my people out here on the streets continuing to speak out against this genocide, I am okay. It is an honor to pay the price of fighting against the genocide of my people. My family.
My loved ones. My people resist, everywhere we go, with everything we have. We resist them. This is what we do. There has never been resistance without a cost.
Try to silence me again, and it’ll only make me louder.
This protest they had more cops than protestors, because they know WOL brings out the largest Muslim Arab and revolutionary base in the city. Don’t let them outnumber us. You need to keep showing up louder and stronger. From the river to the sea Palestine is ALMOST free! Don’t let them stop us now. You know when they get this desperate it means we are doing the right thing, it means they are afraid of the power we have, and it means we keep showing up to protect everyone and keep ourselves safe against the repressive forces that want to silence us.
Jamaica Airtrain: January 27, 2024
On January 27, the 7th anniversary of Trump’s Muslim Ban, Within Our Lifetime and NYCars4Palestine collaborated on a joint rally at the JFK airport against commercial companies and airlines that facilitate the genocide in Gaza. Among these airlines were El Al, which transports military equipment and personnel to occupied Palestine, and Boeing, which supplies bombs and other advanced weaponry, to aid the settler entity’s genocidal campaign.
The car caravan to JFK and the pedestrian rally at Jamaica Station were met with targeted harassment by city officials and the NYPD higher-ups, including Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry and Patrol Chief John Chell, who literally got away with murder in 2008 after shooting Ortanzso Bovell, a Black man, in the back. He has never been charged or held accountable since, only promoted.
Cars headed to the airport were tailgated by the police, with drivers pulled over for trumped up charges such as “slow driving” and “obstruction of traffic.” Law enforcement specifically harassed cars with pro-Palestine displays as well as visibly Muslim or POC passengers.
The right to peacefully protest does not include disrupting the flow of traffic on a major thoroughfare. Grateful to our @NYPDHighway patrol for ensuring the roadway remains open — and for enforcing the law by issuing summonses to those engaging in both prohibited and dangerous… pic.twitter.com/OdLVGe7Zfv— NYPD Deputy Commissioner, Operations Kaz Daughtry (@NYPDDaughtry) January 27, 2024
Law enforcement across NY and NJ worked together to repress peaceful protest and endangered the people they claim to protect by halting traffic and harassing drivers. Their citations were part of a self-proclaimed “legally aggressive” tactic, as John Chell proudly proclaimed on Twitter. These escalated tactics of repression, pressuring organizers to pay for sound permits and ticketing car caravans, are a means for the police to capitalize off our protests and make monetary gains while stifling our freedoms of movement and assembly.
The protest highlighted the hypocrisy of New York’s liberal establishment, which lauded the 2017 protests against Trump’s Islamophobic executive order as former Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded that JFK airport be made accessible to protestors. When we protest a genocide backed and funded by a Democratic president, however, these same liberals mimic the Republican calls for law and order via racist policing, similar to the media hysteria we witnessed around the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting. The threat that our protest presented to the regular flow of traffic and commerce were made out to be more egregious than the Palestinian genocide facilitated by commercial airlines and weapons manufacturers.
Columbia University: February 2, 2024
On February 2, we mobilized in solidarity with students at Columbia University who, only weeks earlier, had been chemically attacked with skunk spray by two other students (later found to be former IOF soldiers) while hosting a protest on their campus. Although the identities of the two occupation soldiers has been confirmed, and Columbia announced an investigation was being conducted by the NYPD, nothing has come from it thus far. After experiencing extreme police repression during our solidarity rally, it makes sense why the NYPD has not detained the two IOF soldiers who attacked American students with chemical weapons.
The police, led by NYPD Assistant Chief (and current Commanding Officer of Manhattan North) Ruel Stephenson and Deputy Chief at Patrol Borough Manhattan Nroth Maximo Tolentino, were aggressive from the very beginning of the protest. They were quick to make threats about the use of sound and the blocking of traffic before chanting had even begun. As the rally officially started, and the crowd grew into a flood of thousands, the NYPD began agitating individuals joining the march, making threats to journalists while forcing them to remain penned into a designated area, and pushing metal barricades in on us while our size only increased. Police arrested two individuals before marching even began, both times protestors witnessed SRG push their way to the crowd so as to physically isolate and terrify those being detained. One of the protestors was pushed to the ground, jumped on top of, and beaten by NYPD before being put in metal handcuffs and dragged away.
NYPD Assistant Chief Ruel Stephenson just ordered the brutal arrest of a pro-Palestine protester outside of Columbia University. Not sure why. Cops also threatened a protester’s dog. Stephenson has a history of ordering arrests of protesters who personally offend him. pic.twitter.com/p5wMp9nQMC— Ash J (@AshAgony) February 2, 2024
Once we began marching, the NYPD were keen on breaking our rally as they ruthlessly assaulted individuals, either at random or with the intention of targeting particular individuals. The assault was always the same: several officers would move in swiftly, one cop would grab a protestor and the rest would form a barrier to keep other protestors away while brutalizing the person being arrested. At one point, the commanding officer, Ruel Stephenson, was seen brandishing his baton and threatening protestors after the NYPD made an arrest. For the second week in a row, WOL organizers were targeted and violently arrested as police exercised extreme aggression. Police swarmed our police liaison as one officer grabbed his arm and yanked him roughly while the rest aggressively pushed surrounding protestors. If it was not clear last week, it is now: the NYPD are targeting our movement leaders, trying to arrest and physically harm them in an attempt to cause chaos and frighten protestors from coming back out.
Officer draws a baton on Columbia Students amidst Palestine rally pic.twitter.com/mZJsXrJLXL— sebas 🇵🇸 (@cybersebb) February 2, 2024
As the march continued, the police began making threats of mass arrests using an LRAD device multiple times. We continued to march, unafraid, until reaching our final destination outside Barnard College, equally complicit in the assault on Columbia students and their sense of unsafety. Closing out and encouraging people to disperse and reconvene at 1 Police Plaza was made more laborious due to the fact that we did not have sound amplification equipment, making it more difficult to communicate with the large protest and ensure everyone’s safety. A section of the march continued down Broadway and several more protestors were arrested, one of them needing to be taken to the hospital after police pepper-sprayed him and dislocated his shoulder. At 1PP, police continued to surveil us as they flew a drone over the jail support crowd.
Although the NYPD alleges that our protest movement is dangerous to New Yorkers, we know that the biggest threat to our city is the fascist NYPD that violently assaults women, men, children, elders, and students. We know that the fascist NYPD have learned their repression tactics from the IOF, whose soldiers summarily torture and kill Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza while chemically attacking Palestinian supporters in New York.
Although the NYPD alleges that our protest movement is dangerous to New Yorkers, we know that the biggest threat to our city is the fascist NYPD that violently assaults women, men, children, elders, and students. We know that the fascist NYPD have learned their repression tactics from the IOF, whose soldiers summarily torture and kill Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza while chemically attacking Palestinian supporters in New York.
The NYPD’s newfound insistence on sound permits and obeying traffic regulations is a return to Broken Windows style policing, which the NYPD never actually departed from. We’ve mobilized since 2015 without once acquiring a permit from the NYPD, using sound equipment and taking the streets, which very rarely resulted in arrests, aside from the uprisings in 2021 and 2023. The theory goes that if the NYPD enforces so-called “quality of life” minor infractions like sound regulations, “disorder” in the City will reduce and trickle up to prevent more “serious” types of crimes. This is fascist logic.
Amid this brutal escalation from the NYPD, we remain steadfast in our commitment to keep our people safe. We remain steadfast in our promise that we will return to the streets and we will not be frightened by the police, and we won’t give in to the fascism of Broken Windows.
Brooklyn Museum: February 10, 2024
On February 10, protestors gathered outside of the Brooklyn Museum in order to take a stand against the institution and board’s complicity in the genocide of Gaza. Right as the action got under way, NYPD officers led by Patrol Borough Brooklyn South Charles McEvoy, began arresting protestors arbitrarily. Eventually, failing to control their anger at people protesting a genocide, the police began swarming the crowd and assaulting people arbitrarily. During this attack, they arrested a number of individuals, including a journalist who was dragged into the street before being yelled at by Brooklyn South’s Lieutenant Butler (for documenting another arrest), and sent two of the arrestees to the hospital. Yet again, we are reminded that the NYPD actively puts our communities, our leaders, and even journalists in danger any time they attempt to police and crack down on our protests.
Video of arrest by @peterhvideo. Per Peter, “He screams "Tell me what to do! I'm not resisting! Tell me what to do!" as the police drag him across the street. He was pulled from the sidewalk where he was ordered to stand moments before being thrown to the ground.”… https://t.co/3vrsWFlfsF pic.twitter.com/YgU379M35i— Talia Jane ❤️🔥 (@taliaotg) February 11, 2024
As the crowd grew larger and larger, protestors began marching east. Although the march was initially confined to the sidewalk, the NYPD could not keep the mass of people from flooding the streets for Gaza, and we successfully took over the road when police tried blocking our path forward. The march continued, eventually shifting west, until passing by the Brooklyn Museum once again before moving on to the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, where the protest closed out.
As we flooded Brooklyn Museum for Gaza, autonomous activists simultaneously occupied the MoMA in Manhattan, who is complicit in the genocide as well. New Yorkers will not accept cultural institutions that are funded with blood money, and demand that every single museum, gallery, and theater cut ties with the zionist entity and its billionaire collaborators. We will continue flooding cultural institutions across the city until they stand on the right side of history and represent the will of the people for a liberated Palestine.
The day before the protest, shortly after we announced the location on our social media, Instagram unilaterally deleted both our main and backup accounts (@wolpalestine and @wol.palestine) as well as the main and backup accounts of WOL Chair Nerdeen Kiswani (@nerdeenk and @nerdeenkiswani), claiming that the decision was “permanent”. Although our account has been taken down a number of times in the past, including twice since October 7, our backup account was never taken down, and never have we been explicitly denied the right to appeal the decision. Meta reportedly gave a statement to New York Jewish Week that claims our organization was censored for violating the platform’s “Dangerous Organizations and Individuals Policy.”
If censoring us proved anything, it is that they are dead wrong. Through the use of our other channels (primarily Twitter/X and Telegram) as well as the support of other organizations who put out our message on Instagram, we were able to spread the word of Meta’s censorship as well as this action, seeing a turnout in the thousands of protestors who were enraged at the burtally repressive landscape we had found ourselves in for the past several weeks.
Midtown Manhattan: February 13, 2024
In response to the zionist entity’s bombing of Rafah the night before—where roughly 1.5 million Palestinians sought refuge from the genocide—we called for an emergency rally in Union Square to Flood Manhattan for Rafah on Feburary 13. Although all of our Instagram pages are still deleted, and we were unable to promote the action to our most followed channel, the flyer circulated across every social media platform and among hundreds of group chats. Meta’s censorship has failed to stifle our movement, and thousands took over Union Square chanting in defense of Gaza. As we began leading chants to open the rally, the NYPD, led by Timothy Beaudette, asserted that we could not use sound or march on the street since we did not get permits to do so (we never do). Despite their threats to arrest us for using sound within the first five minutes, Union Square shook with the voices of our people fighting for Palestinian liberation.
As the march began, the NYPD were desperate to restrict our right to political expression by penning us in on the sidewalks. They were quick to bring out the LRAD, threatening to arrest anyone that was on the street, and in fact arrested our police negotiator for the third week in a row while he was directing people to get on the sidewalk. As we have stated before, it is clear that their intention in disappearing our police negotiator was to generate chaos within the march and create the conditions for further arrests. Unfortunately for Beaudette and his lackeys, the people were not cowering down to the police. Marching on, we eventually arrived at 33th Street and Park Ave, where Mayor Eric Adams was in a meeting. Police barricaded the entire block to protect their leader, and were foaming at the mouth to arrest and brutalize protestors. One officer, Aaron Edwards, threw a barricade at protestors and two others leapt over barricades in order to beat and arrest someone. Amid the chaos, the NYPD continued closing in and attempting to suffocate the protest, which at this point was a large crowd swarming the sidewalk.
At this point, the march made the swift decision to take an alternative route forward and took the march into the Park Ave Tunnel. Successfully flooding the tunnel, we left the NYPD behind to play catch-up. As we emerged out of the exit at 40th St, we continued marching onto the Grand Central Viaduct, flooding the streets for Rafah. As we marched on, we heard the ominous call of the LRAD playing on repeat threatening our arrest. Instead of backing down, protestors drowned out the police sound amplification device with chants of “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “The people! United! Will never be defeated!” As we got off of the viaduct, we continued marching east, and then west, and then north, and then west again, leaving the NYPD powerless to keep us off of the streets. In fact, their attempt to keep us on the sidewalk had only extended the length of the march, expanding the scope of our impact in flooding Midtown. Eventually, the march concluded at the plaza outside of Newscorp, owner of right-wing rags such as Fox News and the New York Post. As protestors endlessly filed in, we closed out and dispersed.
This rally was a major victory for the movement in New York City. After several weeks of escalated attacks from the NYPD, disciplinary hearings at universities, censorship on social media, and the threat of a zionist ground invasion in Rafah, we took over the streets of Manhattan and made sure that the city heard our demand for liberation. People are done cowering down to the forces of repression, especially as the genocide in Gaza approaches its most violent stage.
These are only the most egregious examples of repressive action taken at our protests. Police have arrested hundreds of people since October 7th at demonstrations and direct actions, and there are likely numerous acts of NYPD barbarism that have yet to come to light. The NYPD has also been caught intimidating journalists throughout these protests by carrying out unjust arrests (not for the first time).
Moreover, there have been numerous incidents of organizers facing surveillance and harassment. After the November 17th rally in Manhattan outside of the NYPL in Bryant Park, organizers from Within Our Lifetime tried to commute home through Grand Central Station. When we tried to go inside, we were violently stopped and thrown back by police. The protest was clearly over, but the police at the doors of the station pushed and threatened us with arrest just for trying to take the train home. One of these officers, MTA Officer Samson Shaharian, had a white supremacist tattoo, spelling “kafir” (the Arabic word for “infidel” and a common fascist dog-whistle) on his hand. We were thrown out of two entrances before finally being able to get into the train system.
In the past few months, zionists in the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Congress, right-wing tabloids, as well as zionist has-beens on Twitter have called for our heads in retaliation for publishing a map of protest targets that are complicit or directly participating in the genocide of the Palestinian people. Our detractors were quick to claim that our intention was to create a map attacking Jewish targets or Jewish people generally when even a cursory glance at the map shows that our targets are finance vultures like BlackRock and BNY Mellon, war profiteers like Checkpoint Technology Services, anti-Palestinian news organizations like The New York Times and NY Post, and transportation hubs like Grand Central and Penn Station. We reject the idea that organizations of such tremendous violence are in any way associated with Jewish people en-masse and consider such a narrative itself to be anti-semitic.
In fact, the New York Post, with regard to the map, posted an article reporting that the locations were chosen for their complicity in the genocide of Palestinians and have nothing to do with Judaism or Jewish people in general. Even a publication that has been actively harassing our members along with several other activists for years could not uphold this false narrative. The Post noted that we were targeting companies like BlackRock, Meta, The New York Times, and Starbucks — not Jewish institutions.
Regardless, politicians like Inna Vernikov (herself facing legal and political consequences for brandishing a gun in order to intimidate student protestors on a college campus) insinuated that the NYPD is investigating our organization for posting the map. Whether the claim is genuine or not is ultimately irrelevant. Posting a map of easily searchable addresses — places like Penn Station and Grand Central — is not a crime even in the most loose interpretations of the oppressive post-9/11 legal landscape.
During the November 22, 2023 Flood Manhattan for Gaza rally, a commanding officer of the NYPD let slip that we were not allowed onto the High Line (a public park) because it was a target listed on the map. The cop told protestors that the NYPD has orders to protect every institution on that map and we would not be allowed anywhere near those sites. However, after we maneuvered around them on 10th Avenue, we arrived at another target on the list: BlackRock. This may also explain why transportation hubs like Grand Central and Penn Station are regularly closed down when protests pass by or disperse near them.
The last time we posted a similar map, letters were written about us alongside our comrades in the Boston-based Mapping Project to Congress and the Department of Justice, which urged investigations and prosecutions against us. Ultimately, no prosecutions have played out so far because law enforcement and prosecutors know that posting publicly available information and urging protests against publicly accessible institutions is not criminal activity. Nevertheless, lawfare organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, Zachor Legal, the Lawfare Project, and other usual suspects desperately try to frame it as such.
Beyond protests, youth in New York are being arrested, doxxed, and charged with trumped-up hate crimes charges for ostensibly First Amendment-protected activity like ripping down zionist propaganda posters or putting up flyers on public property such as lampposts. We note that the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg recently lobbied for a bill called the Hate Crimes Modernization Act, which was introduced into the New York State Legislature. The bill could make graffiti charges eligible to receive hate crime enhancements, among other specified crimes. In a state where the government conflates anti-zionism with anti-semitism, it should be clear to all of us where that road could take us. Without mass opposition to increasing political repression, our communities will face widespread and severe persecution by new, draconian laws.
Meanwhile, the NYPD ignores people such as Obama Administration State Department Official Stuart Seldowitz, who became infamous on social media for routinely harassing Muslim street vendors in New York for their faith. The NYPD was warned about him several times before the incidents went viral, provoking his arrest. On January 17, 2023, Seldowitz was offered a simple ACD plea deal, which means the charges will be sealed and dismissed so long as he isn’t rearrested within the next six months. In contrast, on November 26, 2023, three Palestinians were shot in Burlington, VT for wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic while walking to a family friend’s house in a residential neighborhood. One of them will likely never walk again. Wade Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian boy in Chicago, was murdered by his landlord who attacked him and his mother as he repeatedly said, “kill all Muslims.” A woman threw a hot cup of coffee at a man and his son wearing a keffiyeh in Brooklyn. Palestinians have been attacked on the streets of Bay Ridge by thugs wielding israeli flags. All these violent hate crimes, and countless others, have taken place in the last three months alone. Our members and our organization have endured a torrent of death threats and online harassment nearly every hour of every day. Yet, the media, our government, and zionist propagandists claim that it is us who are violent and who need to be investigated, prosecuted, and silenced.
BEYOND NEW YORK CITY
While we are certainly feeling it in New York, this wave of repression is by no means limited to us. Palestinians and allies of Palestine are facing repression all over the world, especially in Europe and the United States.
In England, government panic about mass mobilization in solidarity with the Palestinian people has resulted in multiple public condemnations of marches in London and Manchester which have brought out hundreds of thousands weekly calling for an end to the genocide of Gaza. The power of these enormous marches has terrified the old empire so much that they have attempted to outlaw the Palestinian flag. In France, the Interior Minister called for all pro-Palestine demonstrations to be banned — a ruling which has since been supported by administrative courts. German police forces have been stationed around the country in predominantly Arab and Muslim areas where immigrants and refugees congregate as part of a widespread effort to intimidate them from voicing solidarity with Palestine. The government has also totally outlawed Samidoun, the Palestinian prisoner solidarity network, and raided several Palestinian homes in 4 federal states on November 23, 2023 for allegedly being “members” or “supporters” of either Samidoun or resistance groups in Palestine. Additionally, the German government raided 54 sites for connections to the Islamic Centre of Hamburg. Furthermore, the German parliament is discussing a law that would make support of the state of Israel a requirement for citizenship — a clear attempt to prevent the naturalization of the hundreds of thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants and refugees who have made Germany a new home in recent decades.
In the United States, the situation is hardly better. Countless students have been doxxed and harassed by right-wing billionaires as the US Senate has passed multiple resolutions targeting specific university SJPs, and Palestinian solidarity organizing more broadly, for their work toward Palestinian liberation. Everyone from doctors to journalists have been fired for expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Even DSA State Senator Julia Salazar fired one of her staffers for standing with Palestine on her personal twitter account. Activists from Atlanta to New Hampshire have faced severe state repression for actions directly challenging the financiers and weapons manufacturers of the zionist occupation of Palestinian lands.
On November 20, 2023, a group of actionists with Palestine Action US shut down a location of Elbit Systems — the leading zionist weapons manufacturer dropping bombs on our people — in Merrimack, New Hampshire. After being violently arrested by police, the three actionists are facing draconian and trumped-up charges meant to punish their blockage of a company that literally profits off of the genocide in Gaza. The Merrimack 3 are being attacked by the full force of the US legal state for putting their bodies in between the gears of genocide. Activists and organizations across the world are standing up to an imperialist system that is killing our people en masse, and doing so is subjecting us to the full scale of repression at the disposal of overwhelmingly powerful entities such as the US prison industrial complex and the German police forces. Amid three months of organizing, escalation, and retaliation, we stand united in defense of one another. Within Our Lifetime stands unequivocally in solidarity with the Merrimack 3 and with Samidoun as we all work steadfastly to defend Gaza and Free Palestine.
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED
We are in a moment that will determine the trajectory of the movement to Free Palestine and the longevity of the zionist project for generations to come. Some call it a second Nakba, though we know the first Nakba never ended — it is only punctuated by periodic escalations of the genocide against the Palestinian people. The capacities of the Palestinian people to resist are also escalating, and so too are the capacities of people around the world to contribute meaningfully in the fight against the zionist project.
The U.S. government is the sole lifeline for the zionist state: once the spigot of billions of dollars per year in military aid turns off, the entity calling itself israel will collapse just as the French administrations of Haiti, Algeria, and Vietnam did, and just as the Rhodesian and Apartheid South African states collapsed under the weight of the people’s resistance. Our duty as people here in the belly of the beast is to use all available means to support the Palestinian resistance and degrade the capabilities of the United States to wage war not just on Palestine but on oppressed people all over the globe.
Due to the events following October 7th in New York and elsewhere, it is clear that our movement needs resources. We need criminal defense attorneys, civil rights attorneys, and bail funds to defend those who are persecuted. We need journalists and researchers to investigate and expose repression and surveillance. We need artists to illustrate and defy zionist repression in the cultural sphere. We need people to offer all available resources they can provide to anyone who is standing in the way of the U.S.-backed genocide in Palestine. Above all, we need to stay in the streets.
A six-day temporary pause did not stop the genocide. Zionist tanks continue to roll through Gaza and the West Bank, confronted only by our people’s resistance forces and the forces mobilized by our siblings in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and around the world. The occupation army and its U.S. benefactors upheld the promise to continue the onslaught after the pause ended, and a permanent ceasefire is still not in consideration.
They are not planning on ceasing, and neither are we. Our collective choice in the belly of the beast is simple: we either look back at this period with pride that we fought to stop this, or we carry the shame of inaction with us for the rest of our lives.
And to the forces of repression — whether mobilized by the city, state, or federal governments; or zionist organizations and individuals seeking to suspend us from our schools, get us arrested, doxxed, or deported — know that we will defend each other. We will not be forced into silence as in the days of the Demographics Unit. We are outside and we are louder than ever.
Within Our Lifetime