Hundreds Call on Brooklyn Museum to “Divest From Genocide”

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At least 20 demonstrators were arrested this afternoon, May 31, during a massive protest against Israel’s war on Gaza at the Brooklyn Museum.

Over 500 activists overtook the New York museum, staging a protest in its lobby, waving Palestine flags above its glass pavilion, and unfurling a large banner from its rooftop that read “Free Palestine, Divest From Genocide.”

Some protesters also tagged artist Deborah Kass’s yellow “OY/YO” (2015) sculpture outside the museum’s entrance with slogans including “Gaza Will Be Free,” “40,000 people dead,” and “Ur Museum Kills Kids in Palestine.”

Protesters tag Deborah Kass’s “OY/YO” sculpture with pro-Palestine slogans
Police arresting a protester at the rally

The protesters handed out copies of a brochure calling on the Brooklyn Museum to publicly recognize Israel’s actions in Gaza as genocide and divest from companies and donors with ties to the Israeli military.

“The Museum relies heavily on subsidies from the City of New York, along with the granting of the land it sits on, and so its financial doings should be publicly accountable,” Cultural Front, an autonomous collective of artists and cultural workers who previously held an artistic intervention at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, told Hyperallergic in a statement. 

Artists and cultural workers were among the protesters.
Protesters inside the museum’s lobby

In an email to Hyperallergic, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Museum claimed that damage was caused to “existing and newly installed artwork on our plaza” and that “members of our public safety staff were physically and verbally harassed.”

“Out of a concern for the building, our collections, and our staff, the decision was made to close the building an hour early and asked the public to vacate peacefully,” the spokesperson added.

“Slince=Death,” a banner reads
Hundreds gathered inside and outside the museum.

The rally began at around 4:30pm, when over 100 demonstrators took over the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby with assorted banners and Palestine flags. Hundreds more joined after marching from the Barclays Center sports arena, about a 20-minute walk from the museum. 

“Brooklyn Museum you can’t hide, divest from genocide,” they chanted.

Around 5:15pm, the museum closed its doors and instructed the protesters to evacuate the building immediately. A chaotic scene ensued with NYPD officers in riot gear storming the lobby to tackle and arrest protesters, among them a leading organizer with the Palestinian youth movement Within Our Lifetime (WOL), while pushing the rest toward the back exit.

Nevertheless, dozens of protests continued their chants outside the museum until around 7pm, finally moving their rally away from the museum. 

Today’s action follows several protests for Gaza that have taken place at the Brooklyn Museum since last October, as activists and its own staff have continued to call out the institution’s silence on Israel’s escalating hostilities against Palestinians and its aggressive treatment of pro-Palestine demonstrators.

The museum claims that some artwork was damaged.
Police used force to evacuate protests from the museum.
Protesters handed out brochures calling on the museum to “divest from genocide.”

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