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Israel-Palestine war: Thousands rally in support of Palestine in New York City's Times Square

Protestors were met with hundreds of police officers surrounding the protest
Supporters of Palestine participate in a rally in Times Square in New York City, on 13 October 2023 (AFP)

Thousands of people took to the streets of Times Square in New York City on Friday wearing red, black and green, the colours of the Palestinian flag, shouting their support for Palestinians in lieu of the bombardments Israel is inflicting on the Gaza Strip.

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” swarms of people shouted on the already-crowded streets of Times Square on Friday.

Security was packed in what was anticipated to be one of the largest protests in New York City in support of Palestine in the last few days. The protest began on Friday afternoon and is expected to last several hours. 

Israel has been bombing the densely populated Gaza Strip after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing at least 1,300 Israelis and taking at least 100 Israelis hostage. The bombardment of Gaza has so far killed at least 1,900 Palestinians, with a large majority of them women and children, and has wounded 7,696.

But numbers are rising rapidly due to the ongoing bombing campaign and a possible ground invasion looming.

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In New York City, police officers stood on every corner monitoring the protests and the counter-protests that were to follow. 

"Every member of the New York Police Department (NYPD) will be ready and be in uniform tomorrow," New York Police Department chief of patrol John Chell said on Thursday. 

"We will not tolerate any hate, any acts of disorder. It will be quelled quickly and we will be ready."

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul ordered New York State's National Guard to patrol vital transportation hubs due to the protest. 

“Everybody should go about their daily lives,” Rebecca Weiner, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD, told Fox 5 New York on Thursday. 

Israel Palestine
Supporters of Palestine participate in a rally in Times Square in New York City, on 13 October (AFP)

“We see tensions flaring up. We saw some protests over the weekend. We will continue to see protests today into the weekend. People have heated emotions, but we don’t see violence, and that is what we are going to ensure.”

Maria, a protestor at Times Square, told Middle East Eye that the amount of security in Manhattan was “intense”.

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“I was at the Brooklyn College one yesterday and there was police there, but not as much as this,” she said. “I can’t tell if they’re here to protect us or watch us,” she said.

The Brooklyn College protest on Thursday made headlines when local council member Inna Vernikov showed up with a gun on her waistband. She was later arrested on Friday. 

Mosaab Sadeia, an organiser and a member of the New York chapter of Young Muslims, a national youth organisation, told Middle East Eye that the protest was much needed.

“Over the past few days, we’ve seen world leaders and news media shamelessly amplify genocidal rhetoric,” he said.

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“We see it is essential to stand for truth and justice when the world has turned its back on Palestine. We want the world to know that the issue of Palestine will not be ignored by the people, even if world leaders turn a blind eye to the genocide in Gaza.”

Atif Khan attended the protest with a group of friends. They carried a Palestinian flag and wore keffiyehs around their necks and heads. He told MEE that it was important for him to be there because it is “the least I can do”.

“We are not in the warzone. If I am physically safe, I am going to do what I can and make their voices heard,” he said. He noted that as of 4pm local time, he did not come across any counter-protestors, but he would not be surprised if they do arrive.

“I am not afraid of them. They can taunt us all they like. At the end of the day, they are siding with the oppressors. They will forever have that in their conscious.”

On Thursday, the Israeli army ordered around 1.1 million Palestinians in north Gaza to leave their homes within a 24-hour deadline, with no guarantee of their return. 

Palestinians have decried the bombing campaign as a "second Nakba", while many have said they will not leave their land. 

The Nakba, or "catastrophe" as it is known in English, refers to the ethnic cleansing of some 750,000 Palestinians from their lands and homes in historic Palestine to make way for the creation of Israel in 1948.

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