Updated December 28th, 2023 at 19:25 IST
Holiday travel disrupted as pro-Palestinian protests block airport access in NY and LA
As the holiday travel season continues, it remains to be seen whether similar protests will occur at other airports.
Holiday travel plans were thrown into disarray on Wednesday as pro-Palestinian protests briefly blocked entrance roads to major airports in New York and Los Angeles, forcing some travellers to scramble on foot and sparking tensions with police.
In New York, activists locked arms and held banners demanding an end to the Israel-Hamas conflict and expanded rights for Palestinians, bringing traffic on the expressway leading to John F. Kennedy International Airport to a standstill for about 20 minutes.
Are common citizens fed up with these protests?
"I'm sorry for what's going on in another country," one passenger, struggling with suitcases, was heard saying in a video posted to social media, "but I gotta get to work. This is some f**king bullshit."
According to a report from the Associated Press, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said 26 protesters were arrested on the roadway. To help stranded travellers, the agency dispatched two buses to ferry them to the airport safely.
Across the country, a similar scene unfolded at Los Angeles International Airport, where protesters blocked a major thoroughfare using traffic cones, trash bins, scooters, and debris. News helicopter footage captured the chaotic scene.
In LA, protestors even threw a police officer to the ground
The Los Angeles Police Department alleged in a statement that protesters threw a police officer to the ground and "attacked uninvolved passerbys in their vehicles," though details about these incidents were not provided.
After police arrived, the protest appeared to disperse, but the LAPD reported that traffic around the airport remained impacted for roughly two hours. Authorities arrested 35 people for rioting and one person for battery of a police officer. No officers were injured, according to the LAPD.
Here is what else you need to know
The demonstrations came during a busy travel period, with an estimated 215,000 passengers and 87,000 vehicles expected to pass through LAX on Wednesday. While the disruptions were brief, they highlighted the ongoing tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the potential for civil disobedience to disrupt essential services.
The protests also sparked debates about free speech and the right to protest versus the need to maintain public order, particularly during sensitive travel times. The LAPD's accusations of violence against officers and bystanders added a further layer of complexity to the situation.
As the holiday travel season continues, it remains to be seen whether similar protests will occur at other airports or if authorities will take additional measures to prevent disruptions.
Published December 28th, 2023 at 19:24 IST