Demand for Increased Safety Measures in New York Amid Wave of Unpermitted Protests and Hate Crimes

Protesters who attended demonstrations in New York City have drawn criticism for their alleged violence towards individuals and property in the city, specifically towards the Jewish community. Last weekend, protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in Manhattan, where they were accused of attacking members of the public. Hillary Barr, one of the victims, described being attacked while holding both American and Israeli flags, calling the perpetrators “radical Islamic militants”. Other attendees at the Committee on Public Safety meeting on May 1 expressed outrage and irritation at the lack of rules and protection for peaceful protesters.

Business owners and public figures from the Jewish community have also appealed for greater control of protests in the city, citing incidents of harassment, racism and vandalism. One business owner, Chen Levy, claimed that pro-Palestinian demonstrators targeted her shop by tearing down posters about the attack on southern Israel and attacking her and her husband with flag poles. She was also subjected to graffiti on her shop’s storefront, which forced her to close her shop and clean it up. Similarly, Michelle Ahdoot, the director of strategy and programming with EndJewHatred, described events as “mayhem” and said that demonstrators have been “terrifying everybody” in the city.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is responsible for approving or rejecting applications for demonstrations and parades within the five boroughs. However, unpermitted demonstrations and riots have been growing in number, prompting concern for the safety of New York City’s residents. Jeanne Sprenger, the founder of activist group TakeBackNYC, described situations where she was unable to move across the city because streets were blocked off, expressing frustration that her rights as a pedestrian were being infringed upon. Sprenger said that during the Public Safety Committee meeting, she was cut off from discussing these issues.

A key result of the NYPD’s settlement agreement with protesters regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and the police’s alleged violation of their First Amendment rights in 2020, is that police officers must gain permission from a higher-ranking officer before arresting anyone at a gathering. These “red light/green light” policies have exposed the NYPD to criticism, and business owners such as Levy want more control and fewer restrictions, so that the police can enforce the law more effectively.

Members of the Jewish community and activist groups such as TakeBackNYC and EndJewHatred are proposing new legislation in the New York City Administrative Code that will focus on anti-Semitism and hate crimes, harsher penalties for individuals convicted of hate crimes, and more enforcement of demonstration permits and sound devices. Additionally, they want to limit the NYPD’s exposure to future lawsuits by restricting demonstrations that breach public safety laws. These groups have called for a Public Safety Committee hearing to discuss such matters, which Chairman Salaam agreed to hold, but Sprenger claims he has not followed through on his promise. The groups plan to testify at a Public Safety Committee budget hearing on May 9th, where they will present their concerns about how the NYPD have their hands tied by the settlement agreement


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