At Sunday’s pro-Palestinian “Break the Siege in Gaza” (BTSG) rally in Times Square, I had an altercation with a NYC cop who works with the Community Affairs division of the NYPD. He refused to give me his name, so I’ll just call him the “lieutenant.”
I was across the street from the BTSG group, taking pictures, when a pro-Israel group, sponsored in part by the Silent Majority, started to set up shop. The NYPD interrupted them and told them to move their group to an assigned pen on 39th Street, three blocks away. Some members of the group objected and decided to carry signs up and down 7th Avenue. Others accompanied the police to the 39th Street area. I was walking back and forth between the two groups when a friend with an anti-Hamas sign told me that a policeman had threatened to arrest him because he was walking around outside of his pen. I asked who it was and he pointed to the lieutenant. When I asked the lieutenant if that was true, he told me to move along.
I thought that if I took out my camera, a person who was apparently trained in community relations would express some interest in politely explaining police actions to the community. As you can see in this video, that’s not what he did. When I asked a few questions about freedom of assembly, he pushed my hand and the camera away and told me to stop recording.
One organizer from the Silent Majority, who is also affiliated with Gathering of Eagles, said that the police seemed to be harassing pro-Israel and pro-America folks lately. She believed that these pro-Palestinian rallies were defended on site by teams of lawyers. Also, she said, we “know Bloomberg has used CAIR to instruct the police to be ‘sensitive.’” At the recent Gaza war protest in San Francisco, photojournalist Zombie noted the same phenomenon.
Are the police taking sides? Are they trying to avoid violent confrontation by pressuring the supporters of Israel, who are less likely to be violent or to cry “Islamophobia”?
Probably — by now, the police know how violent these Gaza rallies can be. A synagogue was firebombed and cars were torched in France. Protesters threw stones and firebombs at riot police in Athens. In London, protesters burned Israeli flags and hurled missiles, including fireworks, at the police. At these fiery rallies, the subject of peace rarely comes up.