NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of protesters calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war blocked traffic in New York City at crucial bridges and a tunnel, disrupting the Monday morning commute and leading to more than 300 arrests.
A steady stream of demonstrations have broken out in cities across the United States and in other countries during the three-month war in the Gaza Strip. Protesters interrupted President Joe Biden's campaign speech Monday at a church in South Carolina with chants of "cease-fire now," and were removed from the building.
In Manhattan, people chanting and holding anti-war signs sat in roadways and locked themselves together using zip ties and even cement-filled tires, which at times required officers to use power tools to pry the demonstrators apart.
The New York Police Department said 325 people were arrested, with many facing misdemeanor charges.
Demonstrators had gathered at City Hall Plaza at around 9 a.m. before marching to the protest sites at the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges as well as the Holland Tunnel to New Jersey.
Protest organizers included the Palestinian Youth Movement and Jewish-led groups long opposed to Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, such as Jewish Voice for Peace. The groups said they want to see a permanent cease-fire and an end to the U.S. government's arming of the Israel, among other things.
"By blocking the city's exits, the protesters created—briefly, imperfectly—a physical analogue for the situation in Gaza, where there is no getting out," the groups wrote in a statement following the protests.
At a news briefing Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he understood "the pain of innocent lives being lost right now," but questioned the tactics used by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
"The right to protest does not give one the right to block bridges and tunnels, as we saw this morning," Adams said. "The goal is to peacefully protest without doing major disruption to the city."
The Holland Tunnel reopened around 10:30 a.m., and the last of the protests dispersed shortly before 11:30 a.m., the NYPD said on X, formerly Twitter.
On Saturday, protesters blocked freeway traffic in Seattle for several hours. Previously in New York City, demonstrations have taken place outside John F. Kennedy International Airport as well as inside Grand Central Terminal.
More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed — about two-thirds of them women and children — and more than 58,000 wounded since the war began on Oct. 7 with Hamas' attack into southern Israel. That incursion killed around 1,200 people, and Palestinian militants took some 250 hostages into Gaza.
Israel's offensive has devastated vast swaths of the Gaza Strip, displaced nearly 85% of its population of 2.3 million and left a quarter of its residents facing starvation.
By PHILIP MARCELO undefined
Associated Press writer Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed to this story.