Hundreds of U.S. Jewish activists peacefully occupied New York's Statue of Liberty on Monday to demand a cease-fire by Israel and an end to the "genocidal bombardment" of civilians in Gaza.
Dressed in black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogans "Jews demand ceasefire now" or "Not in our name," the protesters unfurled banners reading, "The whole world is watching" and "Palestinians should be free" at the base of New York's iconic landmark.
The huge copper statue sits on Liberty Island at the entrance to New York Harbor.
"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, or JVP, the gathering's organizer, said in a statement, referring to the 19th-century activist who helped Jewish refugees fleeing to New York from Europe.
The statement quotes Lazarus's poem "New Colossus," which is engraved on the statue's base as an ode to U.S. immigrants.
Participants from the Institute for Middle East Understanding demanded "an end to Israel's genocidal bombardment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza."
"As long as the people of Gaza are screaming, we need to yell louder, no matter who attempts to silence us," said photographer Nan Goldin, standing alongside several local elected officials, some with strong roots in the political left.
New York City, a famed melting pot of migrants, has been rocked for the past month by dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
The city is home to some 2 million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and it so far has avoided any violence related to the conflict, though tensions are palpable in certain spots such as university campuses.
But opinions are not monolithic in either community.
A liberal segment of American Jewish youth — Jews vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party — has unleashed harsh criticism of Israel, which it accuses of perpetrating "genocide" on Palestinians in Gaza.
They also denounce President Joe Biden's military and diplomatic support for Israel, which has engaged in a month-long bombardment of the Palestinian territory since Hamas's October 7 attack that Israeli officials said left 1,400 people.
The death toll in Gaza surpassed 10,000 people Monday, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators, some brought by JVP, gathered in Washington to call for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and to denounce U.S. policy of support for Israel.
In late October, thousands of protesters, many gathered by JVP, occupied the huge Grand Central train station in Manhattan with the same demands.
Separately, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters, including some from U.S. Jewish organizations, shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, leading from Manhattan to the multicultural and fashionable borough across the East River.