Palestinian and solidarity activists in New York City, including organizers with Samidoun, New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, the ANSWER Coalition, Workers World Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Peoples Power Assembly and SPARC, were arrested on Friday, 7 April by the NYPD as their demonstration against U.S. bombing of Syria was attacked by police. Nine activists were arrested and two more were detained – one seriously attacked physically by police – before being released. The nine arrestees are now all released after several hours of jail support and advocacy by fellow organizers.
The activists were seized by police after about thirty minutes of marching, near 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue. They had marched north after gathering in Union Square. The anti-war rally, with a large contingent of youth, had grown to number in the high hundreds before taking the streets.
John Fletcher, one of the arrested activists and a Samidoun organizer, noted that he had earlier been pushed by NYPD while marching and that he and another comrade, Dan Cione of NYC Students for Justice in Palestine, were two of the first to be grabbed from the demonstration as police pried the Palestinian flag from his hands. At the same time, approximately eight to ten police surrounded NYC Students for Justice in Palestine organizer Nerdeen Kiswani, slamming her violently into the concrete, grabbing her by her hijab and choking her to the extent that it was ripped from her head as she was cuffed by police. Nerdeen was clearly singled out from the crowd by police as she was leading chants and targeted for particularly violent assault and repression.
NYC SJP has been a leading organizer of events and actions for Palestinian prisoners in New York City, and it was one of the initiators of the recent student statement in support of Kifah Quzmar and fellow Palestinian student prisoners as well as a major organizer of the international student day of solidarity with Bilal Kayed and Palestinian prisoners in 2016. NYC SJP activists organize on a range of campuses as well as within the community in New York to build actions and mobilizations in support of the Palestinian liberation struggle.
More organizers were detained or arrested by police, including Angela Firestone of NYC SJP, Michael Bellamy of SPARC, Collin Ashley of Peoples’ Power Assembly, Stephen Millies of the Workers World Party and International Action Center, Brendan O’Brien of ANSWER and the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Jonah Quest. Stephen Millies is also the designer of many of the protest signs and placards of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. Two of the organizers, including Nerdeen, were released after their detention, while the other nine were issued tickets and finally released after hours of jail solidarity by fellow activists. John Fletcher, one of the Samidoun arrestees, noted that this march was targeted by the police nearly as soon as it left Union Square, and in particular highlighted the large youth participation in this anti-war rally.
The protest gathered numbers in the high hundreds and began immediately following Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’s weekly protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, which focused on the case of Kifah Quzmar, Palestinian student activist currently held in administrative detention without charge or trial. Samidoun activists gathered outside the Best Buy in Union Square to demand freedom for Quzmar and his fellow imprisoned Palestinian students; they also highlighted the growing international campaign to boycott Hewlett-Packard (HP) because of the corporation’s involvement in profiteering from the Israeli occupation, including providing technical services and systems to Israeli checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the Israel Prison Service.
Kifah Quzmar’s case has seen support from over 70 organizations around the world in a statement initiated by international student organizations demanding his release and that of fellow Palestinian students, often targeted for any form of political involvement or student activism on campus. Participants in the Samidoun protest distributed materials and information about Quzmar’s case and fellow Palestinian prisoners, while urging Best Buy shoppers to refrain from purchasing HP goods and demanding the corporation get out of the business of repressing Palestinians living under occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism. They chanted for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and liberation for the land and people of Palestine.
The Samidoun demonstration also served as the gathering point for the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) contingent for the anti-war demonstration gathering in Union Square. Following US President Donald Trump’s military strikes with 59 missiles against a Syrian air force base near Homs, emergency demonstrations were organized in New York City to demand an end to all forms of US intervention in Syria, including bombing raids, missile strikes and the presence of US military personnel in Syria. Two demonstrations, one organized by the International Action Center and one by the ANSWER Coalition, united together in Union Square to form a unified march in the high hundreds against US wars, invasions and bombing.
ILPS organizations involved in organizing the contingent and the rally included Samidoun, NYC SJP, BAYAN USA, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the International Action Center. Participants carried signs, banners and Palestinian flags denouncing US wars and imperialism in Syria and throughout the region. Michela Martinazzi of Samidoun and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression led numerous chants at the demonstration while Nerdeen Kiswani and Noura Farouq of NYC SJP emceed the rally and continued leading chants throughout the march.
The protest was not the only march against US war and imperialism attacked by police yesterday. In Jacksonville, Florida, one demonstrator, Connell Crooms, was severely injured and hospitalized after being hit in the kidneys and tasered. The police attacked the protesters after a group of about six pro-Trump, pro-war supporters began hitting the demonstrators with a Trump flag. Despite his injuries, Crooms is still facing charges at the hands of the police.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces the attack by the police on protesters in NYC, Jacksonville and elsewhere, despite the fact that such attacks come as no surprise from the same police forces that terrorize Black communities and other oppressed communities on a daily basis in the cities and towns of the United States. We stand in solidarity with all those arrested and targeted and urge the organizing of more protests and actions to confront US and Zionist imperialist war, aggression, racism, colonialism and imprisonment.