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Pro-Palestine Activists Rally at Brooklyn Museum

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Around 20 pro-Palestinian protesters held a guerilla action at the Brooklyn Museum today, December 8, ahead of a mass protest at the institution tomorrow. The group, affiliated with the activist organizations Decolonize This Place and Within Our Lifetime, demanded that the New York City institution sever its ties with donors financially tied to Israel.

Around 2pm, the protesters unfurled several banners in the museum’s third-floor hall, including a large sign that read “Brooklyn Museum, No Silence on Genocide.” Smaller sheets of fabric bore the phrases “No normalization of settler colonialism” and “Divest from genocide.” Security officers quickly told the protesters to leave and attempted to direct them to the stairwell. The activists instead marched through the open galleries, handing out pamphlets to museum visitors.

Activists called out the museum’s silence on Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

The document declared that the museum “remains silent” on the ongoing assault on Palestine and listed each museum board member who allegedly stands in implicit support of Israel and its military, such as board treasurer Neil Simpkins, executive advisor to the Blackstone company that reportedly pledged $7 million to Israel; and board chairman Barbara Vogelstein, who supported the 2017 Governors United campaign in which state governors condemned the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement and voiced their support for Israel. The pamphlet also cited corporate donors with financial ties to Israel, including the Bank of New York Mellon, which facilitates a charity for the Israel Defense Forces, and Citi, which pledged $1 million to humanitarian organizations operating in the nation. Hyperallergic could not independently verify all of the claims made in the leaflet.

Almost 400 workers at the Brooklyn Museum signed a November 12 statement urging their employer “to unequivocally recognize Israel’s ongoing actions in Gaza as genocide of the Palestinian people” and “to stand with Palestinians as they resist violent colonial occupation and apartheid.” To date, the museum has not released a statement condemning Israel’s ongoing assault on the occupied territory, which has killed at least 17,000 Palestinians since the October 7 Hamas attack in which 1,200 Israelis were killed.

The museum has not responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.

After the short march, the group ended in the museum’s lobby, where a string of speakers read the pamphlet aloud. Artist Suneil Sanzgiri, whose solo exhibition is currently on view at the museum, delivered a speech discussing the role of artists in affecting change.

While the institution was quiet on the Friday afternoon, a few museumgoers gathered to listen. Historian and author Hussein Omar, who used to live in Brooklyn, told Hyperallergic he’s been to protests at the institution where the entrance is heavily policed. He was curious as to what today’s activists were calling for and didn’t know about the museum’s ties to Israel before he arrived. He said the action informed him of those alleged connections, opining that cultural institutions aren’t just implicated in historical moments of genocide, but also continue to perpetuate them in the present. “Even if in seemingly far-off places, although this is undeniably a genocide of America’s making too,” Omar continued.

A 36-year-old museum worker who lives in Brooklyn and asked to remain anonymous called the action “inspiring,” “heartening,” and “hopeful.” They were visiting the institution for the day.

The banners in the third-floor hall
Activists hold a sign reading, “No normalization of settler colonialism.”

The protesters left the museum after around 40 minutes in its lobby and assembled on the institution’s deck, hanging their banners over the railing. Nora, a 35-year-old protester who works in documentary filmmaking in Crown Heights, told Hyperallergic she participated in the action because she was “appalled that people are going on, business as usual” while Israel carries out a genocide in Gaza. She noted that the Brooklyn Museum in particular receives a large amount of funding from donors who financially support Israel’s military.

Tomorrow’s action will begin at 1pm at the Brooklyn Museum. Protestors will march throughout Brooklyn to a host of institutions that have financially supported Israel and its military.

Protesters in the lobby
Decolonize This Place and Within Our Lifetime organized today’s action.
Activists held flags and signs outside the museum.

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