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Jewish Demonstrators Calling for Ceasefire Took Over the Statue of Liberty

After last month's protest in Grand Central, Jewish Voice for Peace said they were rallying behind the words of Emma Lazarus.

Protesters at the Statue of Liberty on November 6th, 2023. (Hell Gate)

The demonstrators filtered onto Liberty Island in small groups, wearing sweaters and puffy jackets, on a blue-sky fall day. On separate ferry boats, mixed in among the tourists, hundreds of protestors affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace had mobilized on Monday to take over the Statue of Liberty, to once again call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Their goal was nothing less than to do their part to stop Israel's war in Gaza, begun after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 and killed more than 1,400 people and took hundreds as hostages, a war that has, in less than a month, killed more than 10,000 Gazans, including over 4,000 children, and one which Israel's leaders have promised to wage until Hamas is destroyed

Just before 1 p.m., over five hundred people, who had been idling around the island for most of the morning, began entering the Statue of Liberty, walking up to the platform deck. There, they began to shed their layers, revealing T-shirts that read "Cease Fire Now," dropping multiple banners calling for an end to Israeli bombing in Gaza, and chanting, "Let Gaza live!" 

“The famous words of our Jewish ancestor Emma Lazarus etched into this very monument compel us to take action supporting the Palestinians of Gaza yearning to breathe free,” Jay Saper of Jewish Voice for Peace, told Hell Gate during the protest. Last month, the group led a similar protest in Grand Central Station, leading to hundreds of arrests and effectively shutting down the country's busiest train station during rush hour. 

Tourists visiting the Statue of Liberty seemed bemused by the action—some began chanting with the protesters, while others positioned themselves for selfies. The two guys offering photos on mugs and prints of tourists in front of the statue continued to sell their wares, while tourists stuck in line waiting to enter the statue waited, confused by what the hold-up was. 

National Park Service police officers began clearing tourists from the statue itself, and closed the upper deck and the crown, while also closing the entrance to the statue. NPS police spoke to lawyers representing the protestors who were on scene, as NYPD helicopters buzzed above. 

"We're doing an evacuation of the statue," a U.S. Park Ranger told Hell Gate.

After just thirty minutes of chanting, the protest was over—JVP organizers said the group had made its point, and that it was time to leave the island, after what they said was the largest act of civil disobedience in the history of the Statue of Liberty. 

"American Jews have come here today to lead this emergency sit-in at this iconic location that is a beacon of truth and justice around the world to say, 'Not in our name, and not on our dime,'" said Elena Stein, the director of organizing strategy for JVP. 

As protesters exited the statue, they walked over to a ferry, which appeared to have been quickly designated to get them off the island as expediently as possible. The ferry turned into an impromptu second protest site—chants of "I believe that we will win" resounded as the boat tumbled across the currents in New York Harbor. 

"We're calling for a ceasefire, which is a very, very basic demand, when there is a profound moral and humanitarian crisis happening in Gaza right now," said Ana-Maria Archilla, the new co-director of the New York Working Families Party, who participated in the protest. "The images we're seeing from Gaza are demanding urgent action."

As protesters hugged one another and continued their chants, they prepared to disembark the boat, where the NYPD was waiting for them. "Please go in pairs and try to disperse as quickly as possible," one organizer cautioned, eager to not give the NYPD any reason to make any arrests when they returned to Manhattan.

No arrests were made. Protesters walked off in groups, pulling out their phones and sharing videos with one another and on social media as they made their way through Lower Manhattan. "I can't believe that went so well," Stein said to another demonstrator, while pointing up at a media helicopter. "Now we just need to broadcast this as broadly as possible."

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