“We are trying to show how it feels to be trapped in a city you can’t leave,” one participant said.

By Olivia Rosane, Common Dreams

Protesters blocked the Holland Tunnel and three major New York City bridges during Monday’s rush hour to call for a cease-fire in Gaza as Israel’s deadly assault on the besieged enclave enters its fourth month.

ceasefire gaza protestors block tunnels and bridges into new york city

Organizers said that they chose to block traffic in order to create a “physical analogue” to the experience of people in Gaza, “where there is no getting out.”

“We are trying to show how it feels to be trapped in a city you can’t leave,” 30-year-old participant Mon Mohapatra toldThe New York Times.

“We salute the brave individuals and organizations who across the country and the world are taking action to disrupt the flow of capital, by blocking ports and traffic arteries.”

Organizers said in a statement that a thousand people blocked traffic Monday morning for more than two hours at the Holland Tunnel and Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg bridges. The action was coordinated by a coalition of groups including the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), Critical Resistance, and Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG).

The action at the Holland Tunnel began around 9:30 am ET, the Port Authority Police Department toldCBS News. The department arrested 120 people for blocking the outbound lane. The New York Police Department’s chief of patrol toldWABC that 325 people were arrested across all four locations.

The organizers said that their actions snarled traffic in SoHo, Tribeca, Hudson Square, the Financial District, and the Lower East Side. Traffic began moving again around the Holland Tunnel by 10:30 am, over the Brooklyn Bridge a little before 11:00 am, and over the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges a little before 11:30 am, WABC reported.

“In Gaza, of course, people have limited mobility, no freedom of movement, they cannot leave, even if they want to, they move place to place, then those places are bombed,” Rachel Himes, who was arrested at the Holland Tunnel, told The New York Times. “We wanted to create that condition temporarily in Manhattan.”

The action was planned to coincide with the start of the fourth month of Israel’s attack on Gaza, which has killed more than 23,000 people and injured nearly 59,000 since October 7, according to Monday figures from the Gaza Health Ministry.

Demonstrators at all four Manhattan locations dropped banners listing the five demands of the Palestinian Youth Movement:

  1. An immediate cease-fire;
  2. An end to the siege on Gaza;
  3. The release of all Palestinian prisoners;
  4. An end to the occupation of Palestine; and
  5. An end to U.S. aid to Israel.

“As the violence escalates, we have to make our message known, and it’s not coming from the top, so the people are sending the message. After all, it is our tax dollars,” actor and activist Susan Sarandon, who joined the protest, told CBS News. 

Sarandon also told WAWOG that, “it’s a genocide—there are no bystanders in a genocide.”

Demonstrators at the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges used piping and chains to bolster their blockades, which police had to saw through to clear the protesters, according to The New York Times and CBS. Police “violently assaulted” one participant at the Williamsburg Bridge, according to a video shared by WAWOG on social media.

Monday’s protest builds on months of direct actions both in New York and across the country as protesters have blocked traffic, sat in at train stations, disrupted political events, and blocked ports to call on President Joe Biden to end U.S. support for Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza.

On Saturday, a group of protesters blocked traffic on Seattle’s I-5 highway for more than four hours.

“These direct actions that we are seeing now are tools of protest that intend to disrupt the flow of capital and hit the political and economic elites where it hurts, in order to force an end to the ongoing genocide of Palestinians and siege on Gaza,” Bissan Barghouti of Samidoun Seattle, who helped organize a rally in solidarity with the highway blockade, told Common Dreams. “As Palestinians and those in solidarity with our struggle, we condemn the government and corporate complicity in the massacre of our loved ones in Gaza and across occupied Palestine.”

Barghouti added, “We salute the brave individuals and organizations who across the country and the world are taking action to disrupt the flow of capital, by blocking ports and traffic arteries.”

In addition to more recent protests, Monday’s New York action took its inspiration from a 1995 ACT UP protest that was the first to block two bridges and two tunnels in New York at the same time.

“We urge other coalitions, collectives, and autonomous organizations to take meaningful action against the genocidal state, its collaborators, its benefactors, and profiteers,” the group behind Monday’s New York protest said in a statement. “Protests and demonstrations across the so-called U.S. must escalate in their willingness to shut down business as usual and arrest the flow of capital in order to end this occupation once and for all. Our skills and goals must be aligned towards an immediate and permanent cease-fire, the end of Zionism, and a free Palestine in our lifetimes.”