Pro-Palestinian protesters outside Biden NYC fundraiser hurl smoke bombs, clash with cops

NEW YORK — Scores of pro-Palestinian protesters hurled smoke bombs and fought with police as they tried to disrupt a deep-pocketed fundraiser for President Joe Biden on the heels of his poor performance in his first debate with former President Donald Trump, officials said Saturday.

Waving Palestinian flags and holding up signs reading “Joe Biden — retire b—!” protesters converged on the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street near Eighth Avenue in Midtown at about 6:30 p.m. Friday, where dozens of Biden supporters shelled out up to $500,000 a table for the fundraiser.

Protesters gathered at Madison Square Park at East 26th Street before heading north and then west to the Hammerstein Ballroom, police said. Cops stopped the protesters about a block away.

As protesters threw smoke bombs, cops clashed with demonstrators, taking 37 people into custody, an New York City Police Department spokesman said.

No injuries were reported. Videos posted online show cops in riot gear and demonstrators, many either wearing surgical masks or obscuring their faces with headscarves, shoving each other in the smoke.

The protest was organized by the group Within Our Lifetime, which distributed online fliers recommending that demonstrators “confront Genocide Joe” on his support of Israel during the ongoing Hamas war.

“Genocidal politicians are not welcome in New York City,” the fliers read. “Genocide Joe and anyone who supports him or his genocide in Palestine will be met with protest everywhere they go.”

Biden, 81, left the event within two hours and never came face-to-face with the protesters.

Of the 37 protesters taken into custody, 25 received summonses for disorderly conduct, cops said. Ten others were given desk appearance tickets on charges of obstructing government administration.

Protester Alexander Taam, 38, was arrested for assault and reckless endangerment for hurling an object into the large crowd, cops said. A second protester, Salim Moataz, was charged with resisting arrest for pulling another protester away from police as the officers tried to take him into custody.

On X, Within Our Lifetime declared the protest a success.

“Despite severe repression, police brutality and dozens of arrests, hundreds flooded the streets of Manhattan tonight to stand with Gaza and confront Biden during his visit to NYC,” the group wrote.

During the Thursday night debate with Trump, Biden reaffirmed the U.S. support of Israel, which outraged city protesters.

“He came to NYC but was met with nothing but protesters (sic) flooding Manhattan for Palestine,” Within Our Lifetime wrote.

Trump blasted Biden’s calls for a cease-fire, saying he doesn’t want to help Israel “finish the job” against Hamas.

“He doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian – but they don’t like him because he’s a very bad Palestinian, he’s a weak one,” Trump said during the debate in Atlanta.

Critics called Trump’s comments “blatantly racist” toward Palestinians.

“Using Palestinian as a slur shows the depths of racism that exists here,” Ayah Ziyadeh, director of American Muslims for Palestine, told Al Jazeera.

Biden’s visit to New York came as he tried to quiet widespread concern over his poor debate performance as well as calls for him to drop out of the race against Trump.

During his trip, he attended an LBGTQ community ribbon-cutting for the new Stonewall National Monument’s visitor center. Gov. Kathy Hochul, other Democratic leaders and musician Elton John also attended.

The protest against Biden was one of dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrations to take place in New York since the beginning of the Hamas war on Oct. 7.

In recent weeks, protesters have gone beyond unfurling banners and calling for an end of hostilities. On June 12 about a half-dozen demonstrators splattered red paint outside the home of Brooklyn Museum Executive Director Anne Pasternak and other board members in Brooklyn and Manhattan as they called on the Brooklyn Museum to divest from Israel.

On Wednesday, the NYPD arrested a masked pro-Palestinian protester recorded terrorizing a crowded Manhattan subway train at the Union Square station by screaming “Raise your hand if you’re a Zionist!”

The protester, Anas Saleh, was charged with attempted coercion.