On Friday, the New York Hostage and Missing Families Forum held a press conference and demonstration on the corner of 116th Street and Broadway in support of the hostages currently in Gaza.

On Friday, April 26 at 9:30 am, the New York Hostage and Missing Families Forum held a press conference and demonstration on 116th and Broadway. Supporters of the Forum began gathering around 9:00 am in front of the 116th Street Station, distributing flags and putting up banners reading “Bring Them Home.” Police were stationed outside of Columbia buildings, clearing passersby. 

Many demonstrators waved Israeli and US flags, exclaiming, “Bring them home alive, now!” Protesters also held posters of hostages and signs stating, “Time is running out!” Demonstrators wore merchandise reading “Bring them home.” One demonstrator held a sign reading, “Boycott divest sanction Columbia Hamas University + all Ivy League Hamas universities. Columbia + Ivy League support Hamas terrorists! 100+ Columbia professors support Hamas!! Signed letter supporting Hamas terrorists!” This demonstrator also held a stuffed animal with tape over its eye, signifying child hostages. 

Supporter of the Forum holds a sign in front of Miller Theater on 116th Street and Broadway.

A block down at 115th, a few Orthodox Jewish counter-protesters from Neturei Karta International held signs reading, “Anti-Zionist, stop genocide,” “Authentic rabbis always opposed to Zionism and the State of Israel,” and “Torah demands all Palestine be returned to Palestinian sovereignty,” among others. This group was met with multiple verbal aggressions from protestors heading up to 116th. Multiple protesters shouted at the counter-protesters, yelling exclamations such as “Your mom is a dick.” 

At 9:45 am, the first speaker of the press conference, a Columbia Law student, addressed the crowd. He opened his remarks with “Bring them home,” adding, “We’re working only for human rights.” The speaker then addressed the NYPD presence around campus. He stated, “I want to thank the NYPD…You’re here to keep us safe.” He returned to the discussion of the hostages, telling the crowd, “I want to ask for forgiveness for the hostages.” He spoke directly to his sister, who has been taken hostage: “[I’m] sorry that you’re living your life like a living hell right now.” He concluded his remarks, “We need to bring back the hostages now. It’s an easy decision.” Supporters and demonstrators then broke into chants of “Now. Alive. Bring them home.” 

Mark Levine, the President of Manhattan Borough, addressed the crowd at 9:55 am. He asked, “Where is the American outrage?” when remarking that U.S. citizens have also been taken hostage. He called for the “immediate release of all hostages.” At the end of his speech, Levine stated, “One single powerful message: bring them home.” Fashion designer, author, and influencer Julia Haart began speaking at 10 am. She stated that the United States “has a history of destroying Jewish people.” The crowd soon began chanting “Shame.”

Haart’s speech was followed by one given by Leat Corinne Unger, a Columbia alumna and the relative of one of the hostages held in Gaza. Corinne stated, “What I see happening on campus is a direct violation of Columbia University’s mission statement.” She shared with the crowd that she joined the demonstration today to bring hope that there will be an “end [to] the suffering.”

In response to a speaker’s comment on releasing hostages, a chant of “Let our people go” ensued. Earlier chants from today’s demonstration also include, “What do we want? All of them! When do we want it? Now!” 

The press conference included other speakers who further emphasized their demand for the hostages to return home. “Put yourself in our shoes,” one stated. Speakers also claimed, “We are proud to be Zionists” and called on Governor Kathy Hochul to bring in the National Guard on the student protesters at the Encampment.

The conference ended with the reading of the names of all hostages, to which protesters responded, “Now.” 

Protesters at the press conference

The article was updated Friday, April 26 at 4:40 pm to reflect corrections to names.

Images via Bwog Staff