As a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in the Gaza Strip nearly a week after Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,300 Israelis during brutal and sustained attacks attack on Oct. 7, Astoria Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani was among the nearly 60 Jewish New Yorkers who were arrested Friday night for blocking traffic outside of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s home on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn.
More than a 1,000 activists marched to Grand Army Plaza chanting “Never again is now,” and “Never again means never again for everyone,” before staging a sit-in blocking traffic beseeching Schumer to call for a ceasefire as he leads a congressional delegation to Israel over the weekend.
Mamdani joined Brooklyn Assemby Member Marcela Mitaynes, who was also arrested, to rally with activists with Jewish Voice for Peace, which includes rabbis and descendants of Holocaust survivors, who held a banner reading “Jews Say Stop the Genocide of Palestinians” and blocked the entrance the the Democratic leader’s street.
Schumer and his bipartisan delegation is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, President Isaac Herzog, and opposition leader Benny Gantz who joined a wartime unity government as Israel imposed a complete siege cutting electricity, water and food to the more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, more than 50% of them children.
The protestors outside Schumer’s home shared a sense of urgency after Israel ordered more than a million Palestinians to leave the northern half of the Gaza Strip while Hamas gunmen blocked at least two of the United Nations designated corridors to the south. As Israeli tanks amassed along the border with Gaza and more than 360,000 reservists were called up for an impending ground invasion Friday, an Israeli airstrike on a convoy of refugees reportedly killed 70 and injured nearly 200 more, including children.
“Tonight we are on the brink of genocide of the Palestinian people. Following the horrific murders of Israelis, we are seeing that Israel intends to level Gaza and is escalating its actions, including the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, ongoing use of white phosphorus, targeting of first responders, bombardments of residential buildings and is calling for 1 million Palestinians to leave their homes in the next 24 hours,” said Mamdani, a Democratic Socialists of America member who has a history of criticizing Israel. “The White House is actively opposing any calls for restraint in Gaza. This is the moment for all people of conscience to call for a ceasefire.”
During the rally in Grand Army Plaza, Rabbi Alissa Wise prayed for peace with the protestors from Jewish Voices for Peace who ranged in age from 20 to 85 years old.
“We recognize that for many the call to unconditionally support Israel, including sending increased military funding, is coming from a place of deep grief, fear and anxiety,” Rabbi Wise said. “But we know that more weapons only bring more harm to everyone.”
She led them on a march to Schumer’s home to demand the nation’s highest-ranking Jewish elected leader in history carry their message to Netanyahu, who said Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks will “reverberate for generations. The protestors were also concerned about the fate of an estimated 150 hostages that were kidnapped back to Gaza and are now being used as human shields in a network of Hamas tunnels beneath Palestinian residential buildings as the Israeli Defense Forces prepare for its impending attack on the Gaza Strip.
“We must not exacerbate and fuel violence by further arming the Israeli government as it commits mass atrocities,” said Jay Saper, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. There is only one way to end violence and that is to address the root causes of everything happening: 75 years of Israeli military occupation and apartheid, and end U.S. complicity in this systemic oppression.”
After they blocked traffic with a sit-in outside Schumer’s building, the NYPD moved in. Mamdani was arrested and put in handcuffs at 8 00 p.m. and he was led to one of two MTA buses that were commandeered by police. He was released just after 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, and it is unclear whether his release was intentionally delayed, but it was the longest he has been held after a civil disobedience, according to Mamdani’s spokeswoman, who added that he was not harmed during his arrest, and was issued two summonses that he will have to report for on November 1.
“I plan to continue to speak out against this impending genocide of Palestinians and use every avenue available to me to make it clear that New Yorkers oppose this indiscriminate killing of civilians,” Mamdani said following his release. “It cannot happen on our watch, and it cannot happen on our dime.“