Jewish Voice for Peace Channels Young Lords in “Dump AIPAC” March

Thousands of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) organizers and allies marched over several blocks toward the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) headquarters in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday afternoon, February 22, protesting the lobbying organization’s influence on politicians’ opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza. Sparked by the United States’s third consecutive veto of the United Nations Security Council’s draft ceasefire resolution earlier this week, activists used bright-red trash bags demanding that New York officials “DUMP AIPAC” in a reinterpretation of the historic Young Lords “Garbage Offensive” of 1969.

The gathering later transitioned into a march toward AIPAC’s headquarters, where organizers worked together to stage a contemporary reimagining of Hiram Maristany’s powerful photo of the “Garbage Offensive.”

Starting at 3pm, hundreds of people equipped with “Let Gaza Live” signs, musical instruments, and bullhorns convened at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza near the UN Headquarters to address the veto. Organizers specifically drew attention to AIPAC’s funding of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries as well as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — both of whom oppose a ceasefire and voted to send an additional $14.1 billion in military funding to Israel.

After about 45 minutes of song and chant in the plaza, JVP commenced the traffic-stopping march toward AIPAC’s Third Avenue headquarters.

“We refuse to let AIPAC speak in our name as Jews,” said JVP member Sarah Koshar. “As the number of Palestinians murdered by Israel eclipses 30,000, we call on our government to listen to the will of the people and reject AIPAC as the extremist warmongers they have always been.”

Hundreds of NYPD officers in riot gear were onsite to corral the march, threatening arrests if the organizers continued along the roads rather than confining the action to the sidewalks. JVP met them halfway by funneling the march to only block two lanes of traffic while organizers in fluorescent green vests lined up at intersections to protect the procession.

With enormous red-painted cardboard letters reading “DUMP AIPAC” as well as a frontal banner emblazoned with the phrase “AIPAC funds genocide,” the march swept noisily along three streets and one avenue under a light but freezing drizzle before landing at the organization’s headquarters.

Amongst the heavy police presence at the front of the march was a man wearing an Israeli flag around his neck like a cape, explaining to bystanders that the demonstration was a “pro-Hamas, pro-terrorist march” and adding that he himself was “pro-peace, and pro-love.” A separate bystander clapped the man on the back and and said “don’t worry, I support you — we will kill them all.”

The man with the flag was chased away and cursed out by allies in the march, while organizers handed out flyers to the bystanders and said this was a “march against genocide.”

The procession paused at the intersection of East 44th Street and Third Avenue, in front of the recently completed street art that read “All eyes on Rafah” and “AIPAC funds genocide” above the Slice Pizza parlor, for the reenactment of the “Garbage Offensive” led by the Young Lords, NYC’s Puerto Rican youth activism movement that originated in Chicago. In 1969, taking action against the environmental racism that the city’s minority groups endured through the sanitation department’s neglect coupled with frequent illegal refuse dumping in East Harlem, members of the Young Lords began moving, heaping, and burning mountains of uncollected residential and illegally dumped waste in the streets to block traffic and demand action.

In response to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment, AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann said, “We are proud to engage in the democratic process in a bipartisan way to strengthen the US-Israel relationship — and we will not be deterred or intimidated by an extremist fringe.”

Challenging Wittmann’s characterization of JVP as “an extremist fringe,” the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s recent findings conclude that a majority of Americans, including those who identify as Jewish Democrats, favor a ceasefire in Gaza, supplementing initial statistics in Data for Progress’s December 2023 report.

While the procession stalled outside of AIPAC’s office past 5pm, 18 JVP protesters staged a sit-in inside Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s office lobby, demanding that both parties reject AIPAC funding and call for a ceasefire now. Following a Jewish mourning ritual, the protestors placed 30 stones on the floor of the lobby to signify the loss of over 30,000 Palestinians. The march migrated to the office building shortly afterward, and NYPD began arresting the 18 protesters by 5:30pm, escorting them out of the lobby and into a corrections bus.

“When the Young Lords led the ‘Garbage Offensive’ in 1969, their platform also included support for Palestinians,” Palestinian Jewish JVP member Esther Farmer said in a statement. “I am honored to carry this legacy of solidarity forward in the streets today.”

Representatives for Schumer, Gillibrand, and Jeffries have not immediately responded to Hyperallergic‘s requests for comment.

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