Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war blocked traffic in midtown Manhattan on Thursday night, one of the largest demonstrations in New York City in recent weeks.
Earlier, dozens of students protested in schools around the city.
Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests have become a daily occurrence on the city’s streets and campuses in the past month, fueling anger over the war and fears of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bias. Other campus conflicts have erupted on social media, sometimes between students angry with administrators and each other.
The march in Midtown shut down parts of Fifth Avenue before protesters turned onto 34th Street, snarling evening commute traffic. Attendees waved Palestinian flags and chanted “shut down” and “free Palestine” as they passed under the Christmas lights already strung on the Macy’s facade.
“I think there’s a real need for solidarity right now,” said Sam Gribben, who marched along West 34th Street toward Eighth Avenue with a group of friends. “The Palestinian people can’t really use their voice right now, and it’s on us to use our voices because they’re silenced.”
The day’s protest started as a student walkout. Small groups of high school students left their buildings at noon and joined a rally that began at 3 p.m. in Bryant Park, north of Columbia University, where about 300 students gathered on the Low Library steps to show their support for the Palestinian cause.
A group of pro-Israel protesters wearing shirts that read “Bring Them Home,” a reference to the 240 hostages captured during the Hamas attack and the 240 hostages inside Gaza.
At one point during the campus protest, a student on the lower steps yelled profanities aimed at Jews, prompting an uproar from students around him.
Tensions have risen on college campuses in recent weeks as debate over the Israel-Hamas war has divided student groups and disrupted campus life. Fadi Shuman, a computer science undergraduate who is Palestinian, laments that Columbia has not done more to combat Islamophobia on campus.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll get one sentence in two-paragraph emails,” Mr. Shuman, 31, said. “They won’t use the word Palestine. They don’t use the word ‘Gaza’ – that says a lot.
The Bryant Park rally expanded into a march through the streets, but paused as the crowd reached the New York University campus on Fifth Avenue. Sandor John, an adjunct professor at CUNY, said he came to support the high school students and remembers protesting the Vietnam War when he was in high school.
“I want to show solidarity with the high school students and other students who are standing so bravely in defense of the people of Gaza,” said Mr. John said.
Luis Cruz, 19, who drove to Bryant Park from Staten Island, said he was happy to see students in the crowd.
“I always think that the younger generation is often with the oppressed rather than the oppressors,” he said.
As the protest moved down Eighth Avenue toward Times Square, it stopped in front of the New York Times, where a group of journalists and writers gathered and demanded that the Times’ editorial board call for a cease-fire.
Outside the building on West 40th Street, the rear window of a police cruiser was smashed, and the vehicle was graffitied with the words “IDF KKK.”
Troy Clawson, Nate Schweber, Lisette Cruz And Erin Nolan Contributed report.