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Anti-Israel protesters vandalize WWI memorial, burn American flag after cops block group from reaching star-studded Met Gala in NYC

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Anti-Israel protesters vandalized a World War I memorial in Central Park on Monday and burned an American flag after a mob of more than 1,000 marchers was blocked by cops from reaching the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the star-studded Met Gala was in full swing.

At least one America-hating vandal torched Old Glory at the site of the 107th Infantry Memorial, the base of which was defaced with graffiti reading “Gaza” in large black letters. 

Others plastered the statue’s bronze soldiers with stickers of the Palestinian flag that read “Stop the Genocide. End the apartheid. Free Palestine.”

Some of the protesters climbed atop the infantrymen and waved Palestinian flags or draped them over the figures.

A protester prepares to burn an American flag at a World War I memorial statue in Central Park. Jack Morphet/NY Post
It took place at the base of the 107th Infantry Memorial. Jack Morphet/NY Post
The memorial was also graffitied with “Gaza” in large black letters. Jack Morphet/NY Post
Protesters burn a flag at a WWI memorial on Fifth Avenue. Jack Morphet / NY Post
The protester who lit the flag on fire gave the middle finger to others. Jack Morphet/NY Post
The chaos near the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 67th unfolded with no cops in sight. Jack Morphet/NY Post
Anti-israel protesters gather in Manhattan Monday night. James Keivom
Pro-Palestine protesters march from Hunter College toward the MET Gala Monday, May 6, 2024, in New York. Jack Morphet/NY Post

The anarchy near the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 67th unfolded with no cops in sight as a large police presence had mobilized about 15 blocks north at the Met to ensure one of the biggest nights in fashion wasn’t crashed by any anti-Israel protesters. 

Another Central Park monument, the Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman bronze statue in Grand Army Plaza, was also vandalized Monday night. 

“Free Gaza” was graffitied in red letters on the base of the memorial and a Palestinian flag was affixed to its front.

Protestors gather at the General William Tecumseh Sherman Monument Monday night. James Keivom
Cops stand beside the vandalized statue Monday night. James Keivom
A Palestinian flag was placed on the statue Monday night. James Keivom

Earlier in the evening, about two dozen anti-Israel protesters were arrested near Madison Ave and East 83rd Street as a massive swarm of demonstrators marched from Hunter College toward the Met, according to police sources.

The crowd, part of a “Day of Rage” protest organized by the Palestinian activist group Within Our Lifetime, had trekked north on Fifth Avenue — blocking traffic along the way — before cops stopped them at the East 79th Street Transverse in Central Park.  

“Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” the group chanted as they waved Palestinian flags and wore keffiyeh face coverings.  

A man running with a Palestinian flag during the march from Hunter College to the Met Gala. Jack Morphet/NY Post
Anti-Israel protesters holding up banners at the Met Gala. James Keivom
Police officers detaining a protester near the Met Gala. James Keivom

Despite setting their sights on the glitzy event — which has long been expected to be the target of demonstrations — the demonstrators could not reach the iconic art museum. 

Cops managed to divert the crowd into Central Park before blocking the exits, where they remained at a standstill and confused about how to progress.

“This is an exercise in futility at this point. There’s nowhere for them to go,” a cop attempting to corral the crowd was heard telling his partner.

The march started as part of a “Day of Rage” from the group Within Our Lifetime. Jack Morphet/NY Post

The protesters then filed out of the park and were within sight of the Met, but dozens of police formed a blockade — standing two cops deep — preventing them from heading north.

“Is that the Met?” one protester asked a friend. “Oh no, we were so close.”

The group tried to reach the museum again by turning down East 81st Street but was again stopped by more police barricades at the intersection with Madison Avenue. 

Soon after cops met the protesters head-on three blocks uptown and began making about two dozen arrests. Officers were seen tackling at least one woman to the ground while someone chucked a water bottle at the cops. 

“Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” the group shouted in a chant at the cops. 

Pro-Palestine and pro-Israeli protesters arguing on Monday. James Keivom
Anti-Israel protesters gathered at Hunter College in Manhattan. James Messerschmidt

Earlier in the evening, several pro-Israel supporters showed up at Hunter College to face off with people they accused of “supporting terrorism.”

“All these people are ignorant, uneducated and blindly following each other. It feels like we’re back in World War two,” said 17-year-old Jewish Upper East Sider Elena Bakhchi.

The two opposing sides engaged in screaming matches on the campus while cops warned demonstrators that they could face arrest for “unlawfully walking in a roadway.”

Across town, nearly 1,000 pro-Israel demonstrators gathered in Riverside Park in support of Jewish students at colleges like Columbia University.

The rally coincided with Yom HaShoah, the day of Holocaust remembrance.

Jewish Columbia students denounced an uptick in antisemitism they said they witnessed on their college campus.

“Today, we stand here 91 years and three months since Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany and 79 years since the last death camp was liberated. Since then, we have all had two main responsibilities. Never forget. And never again,” Columbia sophomore Elisha Baker said. 

“Never forget is about the past. Never again is about today, and it’s about tomorrow. For us, this means doing everything in our power to prevent antisemitism from becoming normal in society again,” he continued. “I am here today because I am watching antisemitism become normal in my own backyard. For the first time in my life, it truly feels that never again is right now.” 

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, compared the anti-Israel protests to “modern-day Nazis” in a shocking speech at the rally.

“Words are being weaponized to spread bigotry, to incite violence, to inflame the targeting of Jews. Columbia, Harvard and UCLA are new hotbeds of Nazi-like ideology, branding Israel as the root of all evil and the Jewish people is a global scourge,” Erdan said. 

He said the hypocrisy of protests shows they are not liberal activism but are antisemitic. 

“Did we see encampments to protest Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine? Did rioters barricade buildings to protest Assad’s brutality in Syria? Did we see Chinese students attacked because China is torturing Uyghirs? Were quads vandalized while Iran murdered women and protesters?” he asked, before answering his own question with “Of course not.”

An Israel supporter clashing with anti-Israel protesters at Hunter College. James Messerschmidt

He called on “Jews across the United States and around the world” to divest from universities that allow antisemitism to spread, demand students who use violence be expelled, and blacklist every academic institution that shows tolerance for terror. 

“This Yom HaShoah, ‘Never Again’ has taken on historic importance,” Erdan said. “Never again means taking action, and the time for action is now.”

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