Jewish-led peace activists protest at Statue of Liberty to demand Gaza ceasefire

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters, many from the group Jewish Voice for Peace, staged a sit-in on Monday outside New York’s Statue of Liberty, calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Video on social media, including footage posted by the group itself, showed throngs of activists sitting at the base of the statue chanting, “Never again for anyone, never again is now,” echoing a Jewish rallying cry in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Others stood on the statue’s pedestal, draping large banners over the side that read “Ceasefire Now!” and “The Whole World is Watching.”

The group, which has mounted similar demonstrations in recent weeks at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan and at the Canon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, said the demonstration drew 500 people.

The Jewish-led organization opposes the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians as a form of apartheid.

“Just like Palestinians, so many of our ancestors yearned to breathe free,” the group said on X, formerly Twitter, referring to a line from the sonnet composed by the 19th-century Jewish-activist poet Emma Lazarus that is inscribed in bronze on the pedestal of the statue.

There was no word from organizers or the U.S. Park Police, which patrols the island, about whether there were any arrests stemming from the demonstration.

The protest came as Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza said the death toll from Israeli strikes on the Palestinian enclave had surpassed 10,000, including more than 4,000 children.

Amplifying international pressure for a halt to hostilities on both sides in the conflict, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the blockaded territory had become a “graveyard for children.”

The latest wave of Arab-Israeli bloodshed began on Oct. 7 with a surprise cross-border rampage by Iranian-backed Hamas militants in southern Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and abducting more than 240 hostages.

Vowing to crush Hamas in retaliation, Israel’s military unleashed an unprecedented bombardment of Gaza followed by a ground offensive into the crowded coastal enclave. Both Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza have rebuffed calls for a ceasefire.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)