Police arrest 34 people at the Brooklyn Museum after protesters occupy building

The New York Police Department said Saturday it took 34 people into custody after responding to a pro-Palestinian protest in Brooklyn, New York, that led to reports of damaged artwork and staff harassment at the Brooklyn Museum.

Within Our Lifetime, a New York-based, Palestinian-led community organization, called for the protest on Friday to “de-occupy” the museum until the institution discloses and divests from any investments linked to Israel’s monthslong military assault on the Gaza Strip.

The protest began at the Barclays Center at 3 p.m. Friday and arrived at the Brooklyn Museum by 4:30 p.m. Protesters occupied the public plaza in front of the museum, as well as entered the building.

Individuals blocked entrances and displayed banners both inside and on the façade of the museum, according to museum spokesperson Taylor Maatman.

A banner hangs from the Brooklyn Museum.
A banner hangs from the Brooklyn Museum in New York on Friday.Leonardo Munoz / AFP – Getty Images

“Unfortunately, there was damage to existing and newly installed artwork on our plaza, and some members of our public safety staff were physically and verbally assaulted and harassed,” Maatman said.

Videos shared with and vetted by NBC News showed police trying to secure the museum against the crowd.

Within Our Lifetime posted on social media that its chair, Nerdeen Kiswani, was “targeted and violently arrested,” and claimed that the police ripped off her hijab.

Police detain a pro-Palestinian demonstrator.
Police detain a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in front of the Brooklyn Museum on Friday in New York.Andres Kudacki / AP

The museum closed an hour early out of concern for the building, collections and staff, Maatman said.

The protest is the latest in a series of pro-Palestinian actions that have taken place in New York and around the country over the past several months, including ones led by students at Columbia University, New York University and other colleges.

At least 80 people were arrested Friday at the University of California, Santa Cruz, after the university requested assistance to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment, Abby Butler, director of strategic communications and media relations, said.

The protests on U.S. college and university campuses alone have already led to more than 3,000 arrests, according to an NBC News tally.

Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators Rally In Brooklyn.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in New York City on May 31. Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

Chancellor Cynthia Larive addressed the student body in a letter Friday, saying the university attempted to avoid involving law enforcement but that the disruptions experienced during the encampment were “harmful” to others in the community.

“I believe that many who have engaged in these protests over these many weeks are well-intentioned and attempting to make change through their spheres of influence,” Larive wrote. “This decision was not made because individuals demonstrated; it was because they have chosen to do so through unlawful actions.”

She added that students’ demands for the university to divest and boycott companies affiliated with Israel were already “deemed unacceptable” by the University of California’s Office of the President.

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