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34 in custody after anti-Israel protesters storm Brooklyn museum

Protesters scuffled with police, damaged artwork and occupied the Brooklyn Museum's main lobby on Friday, demanding the institution "divest from genocide."

A banner unfurled at the Brooklyn Museum during an anti-Israel protest, May 31, 2024. Source: X.
A banner unfurled at the Brooklyn Museum during an anti-Israel protest, May 31, 2024. Source: X.

Anti-Israel protesters rushed New York City’s Brooklyn Museum on Friday afternoon, assaulting public safety officers and damaging artwork as they made their way inside and occupied the lobby.

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrived in force about an hour later, taking some 34 people into custody. Six were charged with crimes, ranging from trespassing to assault, while 23 received summonses for misdemeanors, such as trespassing, graffiti and resisting arrest, AP reported.

The New York Daily News said that at least one faces felony charges for assaulting a police officer.

The demonstration, numbering nearly 1,000, marched up Eastern Parkway before mobbing the museum at around 4:30 p.m. Footage shows museum safety officers frantically locking the glass doors, blocking many, but not all, from entering.

Roughly 100 made it into the main lobby.

Once inside, protesters waved Palestinian flags, chanted, set up tents in the lobby and unfurled banners bearing slogans such as, “No normalization for settler colonialism.”

Outside the building a giant banner was unfurled from the roof reading “Free Palestine, Divest From Genocide.” One of the protesters who helped hang the sign then rappelled down the building to escape from police.

Protesters also handed out leaflets calling on the museum to “divest from genocide” and chanted “Brooklyn Museum you can’t hide, divest from genocide.”

In the museum’s main plaza, they painted graffiti on Jewish artist Deborah Kass’s “OY/YO” sculpture with slogans like, “From the river to the sea,” “Viva Palestina,” and “Free Palestine.”

“Unfortunately, there was damage to existing and newly installed artwork on our plaza, and our public safety staff were physically and verbally harassed,” a Brooklyn Museum spokesperson told The Art Newspaper, which covers the visual arts world.

The spokesperson said the museum closed an hour early “out of a concern for the building, our collections, and our staff.”

The protest was reportedly organized by a newly formed group calling itself the Cultural Front for Free Palestine (CFFP). In a statement, it said that the museum should disclose its funders who are “heavily implicated in the occupation.”

Another group behind the museum protest, Within Our Lifetime, urged its followers prior to the rally to “flood the Brooklyn Museum for Gaza.”

Within Our Lifetime has organized numerous mob-like disruptions in the city, blocking traffic and scuffling with police, including one two weeks ago where NYPD officers arrested 40 people at an anti-Israel march in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood.

Top activists in Within Our Lifetime have been linked to attacks on Jews. It was briefly banned from Instagram in 2022 and is described as “extremely anti-Semitic” by its detractors.

After causing the disruption, the group then had the temerity to call for a boycott of the museum for daring to call the police.

The protest took place two days before the annual Israel Day Parade on Sunday. New York City Mayor Eric Adams held a press conference on Friday to review security preparations for the parade.

“This is the first major large Jewish event since October 7, and we are extremely conscious of the over 3,000 protests that took place in our city since that day,” Adams said on Friday.

The NYPD warned that “extremists across the ideological spectrum and other grievance-driven malicious actors” could target Sunday’s parade, the New York Daily News reported.

ABC News reported that the extra security precautions would rival those at Times Square during New Year’s eve.

The theme of this year’s parade, “Bring the Hostages Home,” refers to the 120-plus hostages still held captive since the Oct. 7 attack.

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