The unnamed students — who are affiliated with Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), respectively — were taking part in a demonstration at Washington Square Park, where hundreds had congregated for a “Rave in the Park” celebration held by Realize Israel, a pro-Israel club at NYU.
While some protesters waved the Palestinian flag as their peers danced to Israeli music in blue-and-white garb, others wiped their feet and stomped on an Israeli flag, according to video footage. Police officers interrupted the protest at around 1 PM, arresting a member of JVP who set an Israel flag on fire, the student-run NYU Local reported.
Later in the afternoon, a male student was filmed grabbing the arm of a Realize Israel member who was singing “Hatikvah” along with dozens of students and forcibly taking her microphone before shouting, “Free Palestine, end the occupation.” Several members of the surrounding group quickly circled the protester before he was removed from the premises by police officers. The same student had allegedly stolen an Israeli flag from participants of the rave.
The students were held overnight at the New York County Criminal Court and released on Saturday. Dozens of peers attended their arraignment in a show of support organized by the Governance Council of Minority and Marginalized Students at NYU and 16 other groups, including NYU College Democrats.
The student accused of burning the Israeli flag is facing charges of second-degree reckless endangerment and resisting arrest, and will return to court on June 1, Washington Square News reported. The student filmed grabbing a microphone is accused of disorderly conduct, second degree robbery, third degree assault, and third degree criminal mischief. He was assigned a court date of June 18.
Protesters also appeared to try to shut down the rave, with a flyer uploaded online by SJP encouraging passersby “angered at this celebratory event” to file a noise complaint against its organizers. The note included the partial logo of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, but did not otherwise mention either the subject of the event or the protest.
In a statement published on Friday, SJP claimed the two “comrades were arrested for ideological reasons,” and that their “transgressions … warrant only fines.”
“We’re not going to let them stand by and support Zionism,” SJP President Khalid Abu Dawas told Washington Square News. “Our point is to make being Zionist uncomfortable on the NYU campus. They shouldn’t be comfortable because the ideology of Zionism is antithetical to Palestinian liberation and Palestinian sovereignty at its core.”
On Sunday, Realize Israel responded to the arrests by calling on SJP, JVP, and its own members to “come together and engage in constructive dialogue in the future.”
“We acknowledge that these protesters have strong opinions and we respect and encourage free speech and peaceful protest,” the group wrote. “However, we condemn in the strongest terms the violent actions perpetrated by the two individuals, which have no place at our university.”
Realize Israel and TorchPAC, another pro-Israel group at NYU, were recently targeted for boycott by a coalition of 53 campus clubs including SJP and JVP. The coalition also pledged to avoid off-campus Zionist organizations and all Israeli goods.
The boycott was denounced in a letter sent to the school’s president last week by representatives for StandWithUs and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, who claimed it violates NYU policy and encourages conduct that may be in breach of state and federal law.
“Moreover, it indicates a reprehensible joint effort to marginalize and stigmatize the Jewish student community,” the advocates warned.
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