Several New York City elected officials on Friday denounced clashes that took place between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protesters in Midtown Manhattan, leading to more than two dozen arrests and at least two people being hospitalized.
The clashes on Thursday afternoon and evening began in Times Square and spread to the Diamond District, a small neighborhood south of Rockefeller Center that is home to many Jewish-owned businesses, as Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire after days of fighting that killed more than 230 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel.
By midday Friday, 27 people in the city had been arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, the police said.
Videos taken from the scene and shared on social media showed fights breaking out among small groups, with people throwing punches and stealing Israeli flags from demonstrators as jeers were exchanged. It was unclear what incited several of the individual clashes or who had started them, the police said.
One video showed groups of young men, many of whom waved Palestinian flags or wore traditional Palestinian scarves, moving through Midtown pushing and shouting obscenities at older men they called Zionists. At one point, a firework was thrown at close range at a group of pedestrians, including protesters, the police said, adding that it was unclear who threw it.
Another video showed a man being beaten by several others while he lay in the street. A Brooklyn man, Waseem Awawdeh, 23, was charged with several counts on Friday afternoon in connection with the beating, including assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Awawdeh had retained a lawyer.
The police said they were still searching for five to six other people in connection with the assault. The victim, Joseph Borgen, 29, who is Jewish, was punched, kicked, pepper sprayed and hit with crutches. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, the police said, and released early Friday morning.
“I don’t know how the people who attacked me had so much hate in their hearts,” Mr. Borgen said in an interview. He said he was still sore and lightheaded, but grateful the injuries to his face and torso were not worse. “I feel thankful honestly that I’m as OK as I am.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the attack. “Anti-Semitism has NO place in our city,” he said on Twitter. “There’s no excuse for violence against someone because of who they are. None. We will bring the perpetrators of this vicious act of hate to justice.”
The renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas set off a wave of protests and political tension in New York and across the nation, with many rallies focused on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian people and what some demonstrators said they felt was an insufficient response to the conflict from the United States.
Multiple events in New York, including one outside the Israeli Consulate near the United Nations and another in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, drew several thousand protesters, who were joined by elected officials like Zohran K. Mamdani, a Democrat in the State Assembly.
The protests remained overwhelmingly peaceful and organizers said they believed some were among the largest demonstrations in support of Palestinian people in New York in recent memory.
But news of the cease-fire on Thursday came as the mood among some groups in New York grew increasingly tense. The evening would stand out for the starkly different tone, as clashes broke out between groups of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
Mr. Borgen said he had been walking by himself to a rally of pro-Israel demonstrators in Midtown, wearing a yarmulke, and saw another man sprinting toward him with his fists clenched. A crowd of several people then surrounded him, beating and hitting him for three to five minutes, he said.
Mr. Borgen, who lives on the Upper East Side, said it was his first time over roughly a decade in New York City experiencing what he believed was anti-Semitic intolerance. He had attended another pro-Israel protest last week for several hours without any issues. He said he struggled to grasp the motivation behind the attack. “I just don’t understand it,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation League joined several groups on Friday in writing to President Biden, noting that research showed both face-to-face and online incidents of anti-Semitism had risen across the nation alongside the conflict in the Middle East. The attacks in New York were named in the letter, along with other recent incidents in California and Florida.
Data on anti-Palestinian incidents in recent weeks is less clear, but several mosques nationwide have reported damage or been vandalized, including the Tayba Islamic Center in Brooklyn, where the words “Death to Palestine” were spray painted near the front door last week.
On social media, several candidates for mayor condemned the attack on Mr. Borgen, writing that hatred had no place in New York.
“All races & religions must feel safe in NYC & we must be a model of diversity for the world,” Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a leading Democratic candidate in the race, said on Twitter.
In another episode in New York on Thursday, a firework exploded at street level near 47th Street and 7th Avenue, leaving an older man collapsed on the sidewalk, a video showed. A 55-year-old woman suffered minor burns to her back as a result, the police said.
Many details around this incident remained unclear on Friday, and the police said they were unsure who had thrown the firework. The woman who was injured was taken to the hospital in stable condition.
Several other local elected officials including Letitia James, the state attorney general, and Councilman Mark Levine, who represents portions of Upper Manhattan, voiced concerns over the skirmishes at large and the appearance of anti-Semitic bias in several of them.
“This is outrageous and unacceptable,” Mr. Levine said on Twitter. “We can not allow this in our city.”
Liam Stack contributed reporting.