Police arrest 22 for anti-Israel demo backed by pro-Hamas group at Brooklyn Museum

Demonstrators clash with NYPD, set up tents and hang banner from building after call to ‘flood’ museum for Gaza, in allusion to name terror group gave to its October 7 massacre

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator, upper left, hangs a flag on top of the Brooklyn Museum while occupying the building to protest against Israel over its war with Hamas in Gaza, May 31, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
A pro-Palestinian demonstrator, upper left, hangs a flag on top of the Brooklyn Museum while occupying the building to protest against Israel over its war with Hamas in Gaza, May 31, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

New York police arrested at least 22 people after anti-Israel protesters picketed the Brooklyn Museum on Friday, charging some with offenses including assault, officers said on Saturday, with the gallery reporting damage to artwork.

The Pro-Palestinian protesters had taken over parts of the museum on Friday, hanging a banner above the main entrance, occupying much of the lobby and scuffling with police, witnesses said.

New York City police officers tackled and punched some protesters during scuffles that broke out in the crowd outside the museum while some demonstrators hurled plastic bottles at officers and shouted insults. Other protesters held banners, waved Palestinian flags and chanted boisterously on the steps of the grand, Beaux Arts museum, which is the city’s second largest.

The art museum in the New York City borough of Brooklyn said it closed an hour early due to the disruption.

One of the arrests was of a man who spray-painted an outdoor sculpture, Reuters witnessed. Skirmishes between police and protesters also took place inside the building.

“There was damage to existing and newly installed artwork on our plaza,” a museum spokesperson said in an email. “Protesters entered the building, and our public safety staff were physically and verbally harassed.

“Out of a concern for the building, our collections, and our staff, the decision was made to close the building an hour early,” and the public was asked to vacate peacefully, the statement said.

The rally started Friday afternoon across the street from the Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. Banging drums and chanting, the hundreds of demonstrators then made their way to the museum about a mile away, when some of them rushed the entrance, according to the Reuters witness.

Security guards prevented many from entering, with videos posted on social media showing them trying to secure the museum’s doors against the surging crowd, but some demonstrators managed to get inside.

A banner was hung from atop the neoclassical facade proclaiming, “Free Palestine, Divest From Genocide,” while the protesters also set up tents in the lobby.

A pro-Palestinian organization named Within Our Lifetime urged demonstrators to “flood Brooklyn Museum for Gaza,” alluding to the name that Hamas gave to its October 7 terror onslaught that started the war in Gaza. Within Our Lifetime, which praised the Hamas-led attack in the immediate aftermath of the atrocities, says activists occupied the museum to compel it to disclose any Israel-related investments and to divest any such funding.

New York City police officers detain a pro-Palestinian demonstrator during an anti-Israel protest in New York City on May 31, 2024, during which some protesters stormed the Brooklyn Museum. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

New York City has seen hundreds of pro-Palestinian street demonstrations since October 7.

The Brooklyn Museum sits at the edge of Crown Heights, which is home to one of the city’s largest communities of Orthodox Jews.

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