Pro-Palestinian seders planned in New York, other cities as college campuses simmer

By Thomson Reuters Apr 23, 2024 | 2:09 PM

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Pro-Palestinian demonstrators plan to risk mass arrest on Tuesday by closing down the Brooklyn street where U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer resides, a coalition of Jewish groups opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza said.

The protest, planned on the second night of the week-long Jewish feast of Passover, is one of a dozen to be held in cities around the country, including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.

There have been a spate of major demonstrations on college campuses from California to Massachusetts over the past week. On many of the campuses, protesters have set up unauthorized encampments of tents to press their demands.

In Brooklyn on Tuesday, protesters will hold a Passover Sedar, a ritual holiday meal and service, while urging Schumer, the highest elected Jewish American, to support an end to providing U.S. weapons for Israel’s war in Gaza, organizers said in a statement.

“Hundreds will risk arrest while demanding Senator Schumer, who has recently spoken sharply against Netanyahu, take the next step and stop arming Israel,” the statement said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since Friday, hundreds of students and others were arrested at Columbia, Yale and New York University, while critics, including prominent Republican members of the U.S. Congress, have stepped up accusations of antisemitism and harassment by at least some protesters.

The White House on Tuesday said it was monitoring the situation at college campuses closely, saying people have the right to publicly protest but not physical intimidation or calls for violence, citing some “alarming rhetoric.”

“When we see revolting, dangerous antisemitic comments, that is something that we’re going to speak out against, in very clear terms,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden traveled to Florida.

Bates said the U.S. Department of Education has “an integral role to play” to address antisemitic protests.

At Columbia in New York City, the university canceled in-person classes on Monday in a bid to defuse tensions on campus and out of concern that Jewish students faced possible harassment. On Tuesday, the school said classes for the rest of the year were hybrid – with students able to attend either online or in person.

New York City police arrested more than 120 protesters on New York University’s campus late on Monday, a police spokesperson said. Police said university authorities reached out for help, and protesters failed to clear by the deadline given by the university.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking scores of hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza in retaliation has since killed over 34,000, according to the local health ministry, displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and caused a humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Brendan O’ Brien in Chicago and Julia Harte and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)