In a remarkable display of civil disobedience, Jewish Voice for Peace and their allies brought New York’s Grand Central Station to a standstill during rush hour on Friday, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
This historic protest—believed to be the largest sit-in demonstration the city has witnessed in over two decades—saw approximately 400 people arrested, including rabbis, famous actors, and elected officials from the New York State Assembly, State Senate, and City Council.
The demonstration came at a critical moment, as Israel intensified its aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza. Palestinian officials report a devastating death toll exceeding 8,300, with more than 3,400 children among the casualties.
On Friday, Israeli ground troops, accompanied by tanks and armored bulldozers, entered Gaza amidst a communication blackout that severed contact between Gaza and the rest of the world. Communications have now been partially restored.
Friday also witnessed a significant development at the United Nations General Assembly, where an overwhelming majority voted in support of a humanitarian truce. Notably, Israel and the United States voted against the resolution, underlining the urgency of calls for a ceasefire.
Thousands of members of Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City and their allies converged on Grand Central Station during Friday night’s rush hour, shutting down the station and causing a massive disruption.
Many wore shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “Not in Our Name” and “Ceasefire Now.” Banners with messages like “Palestinians should be free. Israelis demand ceasefire now” and “Never again for anyone” were unfurled. The diverse, intergenerational movement came together in a resounding chorus, chanting, “Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now!”
“I’m here with maybe a thousand others, a lot of us Jews. But we are here to protest the genocide that is happening in our name,” said Hunter College political science professor Rosalind Petchesky. “It has to stop. We are crying every minute. When we listen to your show, we are crying.”
“I have a dear friend, Mohamed, with his little family in Gaza,” said Petchesky. “He almost got blown up today. We can’t let this go on. We believe in justice and the right to live for everyone. But Palestinians have been the victims of oppression for 75 years, and it has to stop. That’s why we’re here, to say ‘Not in our name.'”
“I am standing here, resisting and protesting in solidarity with Jews, trans people, queer people, Black and Brown victims of colonization, and Americans, just like you and I, to stand against our tax dollars being used to decimate Palestinians,” said Indya Moore, an advocate for transgender and LGBTQ rights. “And we’re standing for peace. We’re standing for compassion. And we’re standing for self-determinating justice and liberated Palestine.”
“This is a symbol of New York. This is a symbol of the United States in many ways. And so, we’re here,” Sumaya Awad explaining the choice of Grand Central Station as the protest site. “We’re saying this is ours. This is where we go to work. This is how we get to our children. This is how we go to school. And we want the same thing for Palestinians in Gaza. We want them to be able to live their lives in dignity and freedom.”
Dr. Steve Auerbach, a pediatrician, reiterated the call for a ceasefire: “I’m here to say that many Jewish pediatricians are calling for stopping the killing of children and their families, calling for a ceasefire now, and not in our name. I’ve never been prouder to be a pediatrician than when, back on Friday, October 13th, the New York state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, ‘We stand with the children of Israel and the children of Gaza. We love all children, all families equally,’ and called for an immediate ceasefire.”
New York State Senator Jabari Brisport, co-sponsor of the “Not on Our Dime” legislation, stated, “I’m here calling for a ceasefire to allow the release of hostages and humanitarian aid. We need to end this genocidal war.”
Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani added his voice: “I’m here today joining thousands of Jewish New Yorkers, rabbis, and allies to say that the time is now for an immediate ceasefire. It shows that what we have been told about the consent for this genocide is not true.”
New York City Councilmember Sandy Nurse emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution: “I’m here today to stand in solidarity with Jews, Muslims, and allies because we believe in a free Palestine. We believe in a Palestine without military occupation.”
One protester, Jane Hirschmann, spoke from a personal perspective: “My family survived the Holocaust, but many did not. My parents were Holocaust survivors. And there’s one thing I learned: Never again means never again for anyone.”
As the demonstration unfolded, participants and onlookers alike joined in the call for a ceasefire and the end of the violence that has claimed so many lives in Gaza. The protesters’ unified message was clear: the time for peace is now, and the world must listen to their voices.