NEW YORK (AP) — Pro-Palestinian protesters briefly blocked entrance roads to airports in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, snarling traffic as U.S. airlines contended with a rush of holiday travel.
The demonstrations stopped cars on the outskirts of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, where some travelers set off on foot to bypass the jammed roadway, as well as 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 Van Wyck 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.
Twenty-six people in the protest were arrested for disorderly conduct and impeding vehicular traffic, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey dispatched two buses to help travelers caught in the backup reach the airport, agency spokesperson Steve 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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