• Dueling Protests Today At Hunter College

    March 14, 2024
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    Pro-Palestine protest, Hunter College. Credit: staff photographer.

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    On the urban campus of Hunter College, competing chants and songs rang out today. Separated by less than 250 feet, pro-Palestine and pro-Israeli demonstrations took place. Chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" contended with the Hebraic lyrics of "Lo Yisa Goy" for the ears and minds of passersby.

    Hunter, a progressive, midsize college and part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, is no stranger to politics. Recent commencement speakers include George Takei, Hillary Clinton, Letitia James, and Linda "Cockroach" Sarsour. A gay Hunter professor made national news in 2017 after his husband repeatedly screamed at Ivanka Trump on a commercial airliner (the men were summarily kicked off of the flight).

    The pro-Israeli counter-protest next to the 68th St. subway entrance. Credit: staff photographer.

    Palestine Side: Flyer-y But Mostly Peaceful

    Nearly 100 young students huddled around a rotating list of speakers/yell leaders. Multiple Palestinian supporters held signs aloft criticizing Hunter president Ann Kirschner, who happens to be Jewish.

    The irony? The Palestinian crowd held their protest in front of The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse. Danny Kaye, singer of '40s hits like "Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo)" was Jewish.

    One chant--"Long live the intifada"--was edgier than most, but generally, the rhetoric was what one might expect from Gen Z: inclusive and careful.

    This war makes for strange bedfellows. Credit: staff photographer

    The Israeli Side: We Can Kvetch Too

    Whereas the Palestinian crowd made noise in the sunshine, their pro-Israel counterparts stood in the shadows of Hunter's Brutalist architecture. Next to an entrance to an underground tunnel leading to a subway stop, blue and white flags waved in the air.

    They numbered about half the amount of the Palestine crowd, and their volume level was much lower. This was due in part to the placid nature of their song selection. The pro-Israeli demonstration was organized by the Hunter Hillel Society, according to one of the protestors. The attendees skewed older and were more conservatively dressed.

    The pro Israeli contingent. Credit: staff photographer.

    Keeping The Peace

    The third largest group assembled was the NYPD. We counted 21 officers between the two protests, but to be fair, it was sunny and 72 degrees, and the 19th Precinct sits one block away. Still, the effect of their presence was a calming one, as opposed to recent protests involving black perpetrators and/or victims. Forgotten--for now--are "ACAB" and George Floyd.

    In the end, everyone acted out their parts. Everyone behaved. There were no physical fights, and we didn't witness so much as a hurled epithet, not even at the cops. The proximity of a playhouse was fitting, as the entire affair--which on paper had the potential for real anger over actual bloodshed and lives forever lost--ended up feeling like a poorly acted drama.

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