Thousands of people with Palestinian flags filled the streets of Bay Ridge on Saturday to demand an end to the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian territories and a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
The march, led by the Palestinian liberation group Within our Lifetime, brought unions, political parties, solidarity organizations and droves of attendees to congregate around the An-Noor Social Center on Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street. Marchers then headed out in every direction, stretching over 10 blocks along Fifth Avenue and spreading down side streets.
Organizers estimated that more than 10,000 people turned out to the day’s protest, marching with signs that called the conflict a genocide while chanting, “from New York to Palestine, occupation is a crime.”
“Our movement is realistic. We will free Palestine within our lifetime,” said Abdullah Akl, 21, a Within Our Lifetime’s organizer who led some of the day’s chants. The group, founded by activist Nerdeen Kiswani in 2015, organizes demonstrations across New York City.
Bay Ridge is home to one of New York’s largest Muslim and Arab communities, earning the nickname “Little Palestine.” Organizers said they chose to host the march there because they wanted to educate, raise awareness and build support, rather than exclusively focus on pressuring elected officials for policy change.
Protests have erupted around the world since Israel retaliated against Gaza’s residents for attacks perpetrated by Hamas on Oct. 7. Hamas, the Islamic resistance organization that governs Gaza and advocates for an independent Palestinian state, killed more than 1,400 people and took more than 200 hostages—some of whom have since been released. Israel retaliated by killing more than 5,800 Palestinians—including more than 2,000 children—and displacing 1.4 million Gazans.
“Israel is bombing civilian communities to try to get one million people to leave Gaza. This is ethnic cleansing that no one should tolerate,” said Thomas Cox, 75, of Brooklyn, a member of the Al-Awda nonprofit, which advocates for Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homes.
Saturday’s demonstration brought together people who are new to the movement as well as those who are deeply rooted in it. Among the protesters squeezed tightly along Fifth Avenue were marchers in United Auto Workers union shirts standing shoulder to shoulder with people holding LGBTQIA+ pride flags, women wearing hijabs and anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews.
“Zionists claim to represent Jews,” said Abraham Leykowitz, 38, a member of the Neturei Karta International Jews Against Zionism, an organization of Orthodox Jewish people who oppose the state of Israel, “Their actions ignite antisemitism, which they then use to justify actions that create more antisemitism.”
In recent weeks, many New York politicians, most notably Mayor Eric Adams, have made comments that define the Palestinian liberation movement as directly rooted in antisemitism. Adams made unsubstantiated claims that pro-Palestine organizers at a recent Midtown rally were “carrying swastikas and calling for the extermination of Jewish people.” In a tweet, he instructed pro-Palestine protesters to “not use our streets to spread your hate.”
Many protesters in Bay Ridge said they see the conflict as primarily about sovereignty and resources, rather than religion.
“What’s happening in Gaza is an outrageous example of why this system of imperialism and capitalism needs to be overthrown,” said 71-year-old Travis Morales of Brooklyn, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. “We need to get to a world where every form of exploitation and oppression is done away with.”