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From the river to the sea…to the tree: Protesters try to cancel Greenwich Village Christmas tree lighting

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Silent night it wasn’t as chanting pro-Palestinian protesters tried to drown out Christmas carolers at the annual holiday tree lighting in Washington Square Park on Wednesday night.

As the singers crooned “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the protesters chanted, “Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now!”

As the revelers lustily belted out “Gloria in excelsis deo,” the demonstrators shouted, “Shut it down! Shut it down!”

“Israel bombs, USA pays. How many kids did you kill today?” went another of the anti-Israel group’s chants.

(Video by Isaac Pincus)

The protesters made their presence known — loudly — as speakers commenced giving remarks at the start of the event. Some of the carolers booed them. But, in the end, the chants didn’t stop the music, led by the Rob Susman brass band and vocalist Linseigh Green. Luckily for the caroling crew, this year’s Yule event used amplified speakers.

With some wearing face masks or black-and-white keffiyehs hiding most of their faces, a few wrapped in Palestinian flags, the protesters flanked the Washington Square Arch on its fountain side. Half of them were near the arch’s western pillar and half by the eastern one.

Some of them did a die-in. Lying on her back on the ground, one young woman held a sign on her stomach reading, “Christmas Is Canceled — No Joy in Genocide — Free Palestine.”

The carolers, meanwhile, were stationed in the middle on both sides of the arch. They beamed as they happily sang along to the joyous, time-honored tunes. A father hoisted his child onto his shoulders and they merrily bobbed along to the music.

Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, police officers and an American Civil Liberties observer were all also on the scene.

(Video by Isaac Pincus)

One woman, sporting a horseshoe-shaped septum ring and chanting with the pro-Palestinian faction, said she didn’t know what group all the protesters were with. She shared that she was a New York University student but declined to divulge any further information.

Asked if she felt it was important for her to be there, she answered, “Yes, how can it not be?”

(Video by The Village Sun)

Toward the event’s end, a woman who had been brandishing a Palestinian flag and leading chants, shouted, “The people of Nazareth have spoken” and, later, “The people of Bethlehem have spoken.”

Bethlehem is in the West Bank and Nazareth in Israel proper, both of them heavily Muslim cities.

Elsewhere, pro-Palestinian demonstrators also recently disrupted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade by gluing themselves to Sixth Avenue and tried to disrupt the holiday tree lighting at Rockefeller Center.

(Video by Isaac Pincus)

One local who came for the Washington Square caroling event noted the added protest meant “more people than ever at the tree lighting.”

A woman brandishing a Palestinian flag led protest chants during the tree lighting as comrades died-in, at lower right, and a brass quintet festively played under the arch, at left. (Photo by The Village Sun)

As it has for the past 99 years, the Washington Square Association sponsored both the tree and the caroling. Trevor Sumner, the association’s president, had nothing bad to say about the protest.

“I thought it was a wonderful event, as it is every year,” he said. “We had a great turnout and, if anything, more of the crowd stayed this year as amplified speakers made it easier for people to hear and sing along further back to the fountain. As for the protest for a ceasefire, I’ll share the same thing I said at the event. The W.S.A. welcomes everybody to the event and to the park. Washington Square Park has always been a center for political protest, and the spirit of the holidays is peace on earth and goodwill to all people. We all wish for a long-term peace.”


  1. Peggy Frierman Peggy Frierman December 15, 2023

    Christmas Eve December 24, at 5 PM, there will be caroling in Washington Square Park near the arch courtesy of the Washington Square Association.

  2. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost December 10, 2023

    I’m glad the Washington Square Association director was gracious about the protests. They are, of course, completely right. I don’t like disruptions of caroling and parades, but I know the issue is URGENT. The US is officially backing Israel in committing unbearable carnage and genocide. This must not go on. Not only are we supplying weapons, we’re supplying enormous funds as Israel, ostensibly while fighting the shadowy group Hamas (which doesn’t represent most of the Palestinians who are being slaughtered), is really attacking innocent people and trying to wipe them out while stealing their land. I know there are many good Israeli Jews, but Israel as a country is despicable. It has been since the get-go. It doesn’t represent the Jewish people or their hopes after the Holocaust. I wish Israel would just go away.

    • True New Yorker True New Yorker December 13, 2023

      “I wish Israel would just go away” “stealing their land”… I really cannot believe your disgusting antisemitism just spewing your lies out loud. Where is your outrage for the rape and murder of young girls? Burning and beheading of children? How this latest round all started. The 100+ hostages still hopefully alive? You have nothing to say — oh, wait, do they deserve it? You are such an authority on a tiny country a world away… In case you don’t get it, you do not get to say Israel “doesn’t represent the Jewish people and their hopes after the Holocaust” — that does not get you a free pass. Check your privilege. Actually, it does: The only Jewish country on earth where a holocaust will not happen again and Jews will fight back — that is where you have a problem. No ceasefire in Ukraine? Darfur? or the other 45+ armed conflicts in the world right now? Your hate is vile, your lies easily corrected. Truly sickening.

  3. Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street December 8, 2023

    Great idea, Alt!

  4. Alt Alt December 7, 2023

    Suggest they “disrupt” Santa Con — which is truly a celebration of capitalism and excess.

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