NATIONAL NEWS

Pro-Palestinian protesters block airport access roads in New York, Los Angeles

Dec 27, 2023, 12:24 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Pro-Palestinian protesters briefly blocked entrance roads to airports in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, forcing some travelers to set off on foot to bypass the jammed roadway.

As U.S. airlines contended with a rush of holiday travel, the demonstrations snarled traffic on the outskirts of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport. A total of 62 people were arrested during the two protests, police said.

In New York, activists locked arms and held banners demanding an end to the Israel-Hamas war and expanded rights for Palestinians, bringing traffic to a standstill on the expressway leading up to the airport for about 20 minutes.

Video posted to social media showed passengers, some carrying suitcases, leaving vehicles behind and stepping over barriers onto the highway median. One woman could be heard saying that she was “sorry for what’s going on in another country,” but she had to get to work, using an obscenity.

Twenty-six people were arrested on the roadway, said Steve Burns, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The agency also dispatched two buses “offering rides to travelers involved in the backup to allow them to reach the airport safely,” Burns said.

Around the same time as the New York protest, a major thoroughfare leading to the Los Angeles airport was shut down by another group of pro-Palestinian protesters, who dragged traffic cones, trash bins, scooters and debris into the lanes, according to news helicopter footage.

In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Department accused protesters of throwing a police officer to the ground and “attacking uninvolved passerbys in their vehicles,” without providing further details about either incident.

The group appeared to flee when police arrived, though the Los Angeles Police Department said traffic around the airport remained impacted roughly two hours after the demonstration was declared unlawful.

A spokesperson for the LAPD said 35 people were arrested for rioting and one person was arrested for battery of a police officer. No officers were injured, according to the spokesperson. An estimated 215,000 passengers and 87,000 vehicles were expected to pass through the Los Angeles airport on Wednesday.

Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7, near nightly protests have broken out in cities across the United States. In New York, pro-Palestinian organizers have responded to the growing death toll in Gaza with escalating actions aimed at disrupting some of the city’s best-known events, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

At a news conference Tuesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams criticized some of the protest organizers’ tactics and suggested police may need to ramp up their response.

“I don’t believe that people should be able to just take over our streets and march in our streets,” he said. “I don’t believe people should be able to take over our bridges. I just don’t believe you can run a city this complex where people can just do whatever they want.”

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Associated Press journalist John Antczak contributed from Los Angeles.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters block airport access roads in New York, Los Angeles