Hundreds of protesters boarded ferries to the Statue of Liberty on Monday, carrying banners calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war that they unfurled from the statue’s pedestal.
The protest, led by the activist group Jewish Voice for Peace, was the latest in a series of protests, vigils and other events that Americans on opposing sides of the conflict have organized almost daily in cities across the country since the beginning of the war. Over the weekend, thousands marched in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in cities ranging from Cincinnati to Provo, Utah, as the death toll in Gaza continued to mount.
In New York, a coalition of Jewish groups held a vigil on Monday evening near Central Park to mark the 30 days since Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 and to call for solidarity with Israel.
The protest at the Statue of Liberty began inconspicuously. The protesters mixed with tourists milling around on Liberty Island until — spurred by an outburst of song that rang out from near the statue’s pedestal — they pulled on black T-shirts marked with the words “Jews Say Cease Fire Now,” and began climbing the pedestal stairs.
The protesters, now assembled below the statue’s feet, dropped several banners from the edge of the stairs; the signs bore slogans that included “Palestinians should be free” and “The world is watching.”
Jay Saper, 32, a spokesperson for Jewish Voice for Peace who uses they/them pronouns, said the group had chosen the location because it was “inspired by the lineage of many people who have made their calls for justice here on this island.”
Last week, Jewish Voice for Peace organized a large protest at Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan that disrupted the evening commute. Organizers said the protest on Monday was meant to “keep up the pressure.”
“We know that today the Israeli government is hailing bombs down on Gaza City and has cut off electricity from the rest of Gaza, plunging everyone into darkness,” said Elena Stein, 35, a community organizer and director of organizing strategy for Jewish Voice for Peace who lives in Brooklyn. “And so our response is to come to this iconic American location that represents peace and liberty, as Jews, and other people of conscience, to say, ‘Not in our name. Let Gaza live.’”
The protesters, who risked arrest by federal law enforcement officers, eventually marched to the Liberty Island ferry landing, where they boarded a ferry back to Battery Park in Manhattan. Mx. Saper said that there had been no arrests.
Later on Monday at the pro-Israel vigil, thousands gathered near Central Park, on the Upper West Side, and held aloft Israeli flags. The crowd chanted “Bring them back,” referring to the more than 200 Israeli hostages who remain in Gaza. A series of speakers addressed the gathering, including Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and the actress Debra Messing.
Daniel Zabari, 26, traveled from Greenwich Village. He said he had been feeling fatigued: “I feel like I have to defend my identity all the time as a Jewish person.”
He added that he had come because he believed “one of the greatest ways towards lasting peace is amplifying the voices of people who are looking for something that works for as many people as possible.”
Liset Cruz contributed reporting.