NEW YORK (AP) — Supporters of Israel and backers of the Palestinian cause held competing rallies in several American cities Sunday over the conflict that has killed hundreds and wounded thousands in the Middle East.
In New York City, a skirmish broke out between opposing demonstrators near the United Nations compound after a large group of Palestinian supporters rallied in Times Square. Palestinian Americans protested outside the Israeli consulates in Atlanta and Chicago. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a Jewish community gathering to support Israel at a synagogue in San Francisco.
The demonstrations and involvement of American political leaders show the far-reaching ramifications of a conflict that has already prompted the U.S. to order naval forces deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean, ready to assist Israel. Here’s what reaction around the country has looked like:
In New York City, police ringed the United Nations compound as scores of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered a block away, chanting and waving flags. Metal barricades kept them on sidewalks as officers worked to separate them from an opposing group across the street, some waving Israeli flags.
As some pro-Palestinian demonstrators were leaving, men yelling and carrying Israeli flags crossed the barricades. A short skirmish broke out in the crowd, with one man ripping away an Israeli flag and throwing it to the sidewalk, where people stomped on it. Police quickly separated the two sides.
“We want to show the world that when Palestine rises up in resistance, the diaspora rises with it,” Munir Atalla, of the Palestinian Youth Movement, said before the scuffle.
In Times Square, social media earlier showed Palestinian supporters rallied, with police barricades separating the crowd from a pro-Israel group. The pro-Palestinians eventually marched away chanting “free, free Palestine, long live Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as tourists and onlookers snapped photos.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, condemned the planned pro-Palestinian rally in a statement on Saturday night, calling it “abhorrent and morally repugnant.” Other political leaders in New York have issued similar statements.
In Atlanta, more than 75 people demonstrated at the Israeli consulate Sunday afternoon, chanting slogans in support of Hamas and calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.
“We’re here because we think everyone in the United States is funding Israeli apartheid,” said Natalie Villasana, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. She said U.S. military aid would be better spent on problems in the United States, although demonstrators also argued that Hamas’ actions were justified by Israeli actions.
Talia Segal, a student at nearby Georgia Tech, came as a counter-protester, carrying an Israeli flag fringed with the rainbow of the LGBTQ+ pride movement.
“Terrorism is never justified. Their target was Israeli civilians,” said Segal, who is Jewish and said she fears for her family in Israel.
In Chicago, Priscilla Reed was among hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who rallied outside the Israeli consulate. Many waved Palestinian flags or wore keffiyeh, the black and white checkered scarfs that have come to symbolize Palestinian solidarity. Their chants, in both English and Arabic, included, “Netanyahu you will see, Palestine will be free!”
Reed, a retired teacher, said the attacks by Hamas were in response to Israel’s “systemic daily violence against Palestinians.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas. Associated Press journalists Anthony Izaguirre and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York, Jeff Amy and Alex Sanz in Atlanta, and Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.