“If anyone is flying out of JFK Airport today, please plan to travel to the airport ahead of time. There are planned protests today and will cause delays,” Philip Rivera, the NYPD chief of transportation, wrote around 1 p.m. on Jan. 1. “We don’t want anyone to miss their flights! Safe travels and Happy New Year.”
The post received angry responses demanding that the police do its job and remove the protesters. Many asked if the protesters had obtained a permit for the disruption, which ended up delaying 60 flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, N.Y.
“If the protesters can plan, so can the people who are paid to keep transportation arteries open,” wrote Matt Welch, editor at large at Reason magazine.
Melissa Weiss, executive editor of Jewish Insider who lives in Israel, wrote: “Ironic that the people who tell me to ‘go back to Brooklyn’ are the ones making it impossible to get there.”
Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. secretary of transportation who has often commented on airline delays, did not post about the anti-Israel protesters delaying air travel.
The “Flood JFK for Gaza” protest—using the same language, “flood,” as Hamas did on Oct. 7—was organized by Within Our Lifetime and included the chant, “NYPD, KKK, IDF you’re all the same” and a sign “Israel has waged a war on the children in Palestine.”
Some of the flight delays were due to crews being unable to arrive on time because of the disruption.
Video footage showed balloons floating above the airport, which is a potential federal crime. A source in law enforcement confirmed the balloons to the New York Post.
“The FBI is investigating who let the balloons go because they could cause a threat to aviation safety, the source said,” it reported. “It’s unclear if balloons were related to the protest. The Port Authority said it had no information on any balloons and Port Authority police made no arrests.”
“Victory! Port Authority has effectively shut down all entrances to JFK for people without a boarding pass. Airtrain service is closed, and cars cannot get into the terminal without proof of ticket,” Within Our Lifetime posted. “Airport is swarming with law enforcement and organizers were removed from Terminal 4.”
“We are calling on everyone without a car to meet us at the offices of El Al, the Zionist entity’s largest airline, for a protest at 100 Wall Street in Manhattan,” the group added, before announcing a “car caravan” to LaGuardia Airport, also in Queens.