Pro-Palestinian protesters caused traffic disruptions at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, two of the busiest hubs in the nation.
At LAX, 36 individuals were taken into custody as the situation escalated, with protesters resorting to aggressive tactics, as described by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Airport entrance temporarily blocked in protest
“Protesters threw a police officer to the ground, used construction debris, road signs, tree branches and blocks of concrete to obstruct” a road leading into the airport “while attacking uninvolved passersby in their vehicles,” stated the police in an official statement.
Most detainees faced rioting charges, and at least one individual was arrested for battery on a police officer.
Despite the disruptions, the airport complex’s entrance was reopened within approximately 45 minutes, with no reported impacts on flights.
East Coast disturbance: Arrests at JFK Airport
Simultaneously, on the East Coast, John F. Kennedy International Airport experienced a similar situation.
The Port Authority Police Department of New York reported 26 arrests for disorderly conduct and impeding vehicular traffic during a protest along the Van Wyck Expressway within JFK Airport in Queens.
During the disruption, the Port Authority responded by dispatching two airport buses to assist travelers caught in the resulting traffic backlog, ensuring their safe arrival at the airport. The road closure lasted about 20 minutes, according to police reports.
Demonstrators’ message: ‘Free Palestine” and opposition to Israeli actions
Local news coverage of both protests captured demonstrators carrying banners with messages such as “free Palestine” and “divest from genocide.”
These expressions of solidarity with Palestinians underscored opposition to Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip over the past 11 weeks.
Global context: Protests amid escalating Gaza conflict
The demonstrations occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of people are attempting to flee the fighting that erupted when the Iranian-backed militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.
The cross-border raid resulted in a tragic toll, marking the deadliest day in Israel’s history, with 1,200 people killed.
Israeli counterattack inflicts heavy toll on Gaza, triggers humanitarian crisis
In response, Israel launched a sustained counterattack on Gaza, employing air, land, and sea forces. The Gaza health ministry reported over 21,000 deaths and more than 55,000 injuries.
The conflict has displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes, creating a dire humanitarian situation.
Demonstrations in the U.S. echo global concerns over Gaza conflict
The protests at major U.S. airports reflect the international community’s growing concern over the escalating conflict in the Gaza Strip.
As individuals express solidarity with the Palestinian cause, the geopolitical landscape remains fraught with tensions, emphasizing the need for diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of the conflict and promote a lasting peace in the region.