A nearly 90-year Christmas tradition took an ugly turn as hundreds of pro-Palestinian protestors clashed with police and chanted "river to the sea" – a genocidal, antisemitic slogan – during the annual Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Event in New York City last night.
Demonstrators gathered on Sixth Avenue alongside tourists who were waiting in line to see the iconic ceremony.
Videos posted to social media showed several hundred chanting pro-Palestinian protesters, many carrying Palestinian flags and signs, crowded in front of the News Corp building, which is home to Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, demanding an "end to genocide" while simultaneously calling for genocide against Israelis.
#BREAKING: Chaos erupts As Pro-Palestinian Protesters try to Disrupt the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting breaking through barricades and fighting with police ⁰⁰#Manhattan | #NewYork ⁰⁰Currently Chaos is unfolding in midtown Manhattan, in New York City, as reports of… pic.twitter.com/MdfiLxHdxr
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) November 30, 2023
This is a beautiful, peaceful 90 year old American Christian tradition and the “river to the sea” narcissists can’t stand it. https://t.co/sxokUNUDVW
— Abigail Shrier (@AbigailShrier) November 30, 2023
Their controversial Hamas chant – "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" – is used by anti-Israel protesters to call for annihilating the Jewish nation.
Footage from the scene showed a few protesters clashing with police outside the media company's building as they tried to push forward to the tree but they were held back by police. They also attempted to push through barricades law enforcement had set up.
One protestor was seen climbing on top of the pillar outside the building, and another was seen carrying a massive sign bearing a swastika, comparing the Israel Defense Forces to German Nazis, The New York Post reports.
A few protestors were seen in a scuffle with police before being subdued. Seven people were taken into custody and could be issued summons or face arrest, police said.
Protest organizers took to social media earlier this week to call for supporters to "flood" the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
"Within Our Lifetime" and "Hidden Palestine" Instagram pages, which boast 137,000 followers and 315,000 followers respectively, shared a call to action for the "Flood the Tree Lighting for Gaza."
"This year, Jerusalem's 13 official churches + the Bethlehem Municipality itself has called to suspend Christmas celebrations in mourning for the ongoing genocide in Gaza," the post read.
The New York City Police Department assured they would be able to handle the protests and encouraged families to attend.
"We do anticipate that there will be protests in the city on Wednesday — to include around the area of the tree lighting — and at future gatherings around the city in the days and weeks to come, as we have seen over the past seven weeks. The NYPD will be on hand to protect the tree lighting and all those attending, and we will not tolerate disruption or any threats to public safety," an NYPD spokesperson said in a statement.
Most attendees were able to enjoy the lighting of the massive 12-ton, 80-foot-tall Norway spruce topped with a 900-pound star covered in 3 million gleaming crystals.
Others expressed annoyance at the protest.
"It's super, super annoying. Just excruciating. Seeing these people in such large numbers, it makes me feel embarrassed to be an American because people are watching this happening from abroad. Kudos to the cops for keeping these people under control and for showing restraint, because they deal with a lot of verbal abuse," Opal Burnett of St. Louis, Missouri told the New York Post.
"Politics has no place at an event like this, but that's exactly why they do it — to disrupt the status quo, to ruin the things we cherish and take comfort in," said Lillian Gonzalez of the Bronx.
"The Christmas tree brings a message of peace, not conflict. That's why we're gathered here today, not to protest but to welcome in the holiday season. None of this mob activity is going to take that away from us," she added.