Thursday, October 09, 2014

At Barclays Center, some heated protests over Israeli team's visit, and a possible hate crime after the game

The Barclays Center and its plaza were the site of some heated protests Tuesday night, keyed to the Brooklyn Nets game against an Israeli team and an event honoring Israeli soldiers, and then an apparent hate crime after the game against a Jewish Brooklynite.

Dave Zirin of the Nation, in ‘Israel’s War On Gaza Is Not A Game’: Scenes From the NBA Preseason Protest, noted the irony in what seemed to be a regulated demonstration, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, and a less regulated counter-demonstration:

That’s what made what then unfolded all the more bizarre. While 200 people marched around the tightly constricted pen with signs that read, “Don’t play with apartheid” and “This Jew says no to Gaza slaughter,” counter-demonstrators gathered on the private, open-space plaza. All male, mostly young and carrying Israeli flags, they showered the demonstrators with profanity. Many not holding a flag held phones up with one hand, videotaping the protesters, and raised a middle finger with the other. When I attempted to interview one young man, he said, “Fuck them, fuck your questions and fuck you. Get the fuck away from me before I bury you.” I asked how he wanted to be identified. He said, “My name is ‘fuck you.’”
He also interviewed a far more civil counter-demonstrator who raised questions about double standards by those protesting Israel.

Inside the building, he reported:
People from the organizations NYC Solidarity with Palestine and Direct Action Front for Palestine unfurled a banner in the stands during the second quarter that read, “We Are Brooklyn. Don’t Play with Apartheid #BDS.” One of the participants Amin Husain, said to me afterward, “Fans were aggressive. They snatched the banner. Security tried to escort us out, but we evaded them. Others in our group then took out a Palestinian flag and were assaulted by fans. We escaped the assaults but made it outside. We told police what happened but they did not do anything.”

A reported assault

DNAinfo reported Anti-Jewish Bias Attack at Barclays Center:
The director of a Jewish nonprofit was punched out at the Barclays Center after attending a Nets exhibition game with his family Tuesday night in what police are investigating as a hate crime, authorities said.
Kings Bay Y director Leonard Petlakh suffered a broken nose and cuts requiring eight stitches about 8 p.m. when a fight broke out after someone pulled the hijab off a woman's head following a game between the Brooklyn basketball team and the Maccabi Tel Aviv team from Israel, an NYPD spokesman said.
“Leonard suffered a broken nose and lacerations requiring eight stitches. He is safe and home recovering,” Park Slope synagogue Congregation Beth Shalom Rabbi Andy Bachman and President Jonathan Fried said in a joint statement [here]. “Hate and violence have no place in our diverse city. This attack is totally deplorable and we demand that the NYPD will do all in its power to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for this crime.”
Police described the man who threw the punch as 5 feet, 8 inches tall and 160 pounds. He was wearing a V-neck t-shirt with the word “Nets” on the front and “BK” spray-painted on the back.
Jewish Voice for Peace deplored the incident, issuing a statement that also cited some sexually harassing language from counter-demonstrators.

The Forward, in Jewish Leader Attacked at Brooklyn Nets Game by Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators, quoted Petlakh as saying he asked protestors shouting “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers” to get out of the way before he was hit.

The Jewish Week reported that the attack happened after "a group of about six or seven people entered the stands late in the game and tried to unfurl a Palestinian flag. Someone else grabbed the flag and brought it to an usher, who tried to remove it."

Other news outlets had similar accounts, though only the DNAinfo one mentioned the hijab. I'd expect more information to emerge.

On protests and public space

I saw only the early part of the protests on the Barclays Center plaza--I had another obligation. I saw Zirin and he asked me for a comment about the regulation of protests there:
“To the extent there are restrictions on activity at the plaza—the Daily News Plaza, to be precise, given the newspaper’s sponsorship—we must remember it’s not quite a public space, despite the significant public support—direct subsidies, tax breaks, eminent domain, override of zoning, and giveaway of naming rights—for the Barclays Center.”
Zirin noted the difficulty in distinguishing public and private, with an officer calling the plaza "private land owned by Barclays." Actually, it's under control of the arena, though technically public, given that the whole site is owned by the state and leased to private operators. But it's not a park.

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