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Hundreds of Pro-Palestine supporters rally in Astoria on anniversary of Nakba

The NYPD closely followed hundreds of Pro-Palestine protestors in Astoria on May 15. Photo courtesy of @aaronnarraph on X

May 16, 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan

Hundreds of Pro-Palestine protesters took to the streets of Astoria on Wednesday, May 15, for what is known as Nakba Day

Nakba, which translates to ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, refers to the ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion of 700,000 people from what is now Israel in 1948. This year, protesters around the world commemorated the 76th anniversary of the displacement while continuing to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

The rally began around 5 p.m. outside of the Al-Iman Mosque on Steinway Street, where it stayed for two hours as the crowd grew. Despite the rain, many more supporters trickled in as the group marched down 30th and 31st Avenues. 

Protesters clad in kufiya scarves chanted, “We will free Palestine within our lifetime” and “From the sea to the river, Palestine will live forever.” Some lit up green and red flares while others waved the Palestinian flag. 

In response to the scheduled demonstration, the NYPD increased its presence in the area before the number of protestors swelled. 

The NYPD arrested two individuals, one Staten Island resident for disorderly conduct and another New Jersey resident for resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and harassment in the second degree. 

Another individual was issued one summons for walking on the roadway instead of the available sidewalk. 

Videos taken by independent journalists at the scene showed dozens of officers, particularly those in the counter-terrorism unit, following the protesters during their rally and march.

The event was organized by Within Our Lifetime (WOL), a group affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Movement that organizes events and rallies across the city. In March, they organized the Gaza 5k in Protest Park to raise money for mental health programs for Palestinian children. 

In Astoria, WOL previously organized a “Flood Queens for Gaza” rally in February, which also saw a significant turnout and several arrests. 

“The more of us you arrest, the more rise up! The more you try to silence us, the louder we will be,” screamed Palestinian organizer Nerdeen Kiswani to the crowd that gathered on Steinway Street. 

An independent reporter who covers social movements noted that there were four people counter-protesting in support of Israel, and another independent reporter said they cleared out shortly after. 

Northeast Queens Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, who does not represent the area but frequently speaks out about protests across the city on X, responded in opposition to the demonstration. 

“Getting word of rioting in Astoria tonight,” she wrote on X alongside a video of protesters waving Palestinian flags. “These people are not going to stop until we stop them. And if we don’t stop them, they’re going to escalate until someone dies. That’s their goal here.”

Elected officials who represent Astoria did not immediately comment on the protest but have been staunch supporters of the Free Palestine movement. That includes City Council Member Tiffany Caban and State Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani. 

The rally ended with hundreds filling Athens Park, where they continued to chant. This was a significant increase in the number of people who had rallied on Steinway Street hours earlier and marched down various streets. 

“There’s been an overwhelming demonstration of bystander support here in Astoria,” reported the Indypendent on X.

Another Nakba Day rally, organized by WOL, is scheduled for Saturday, May 18, in Bay Ridge. 

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