Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy parts of Brooklyn Museum

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Pro-Palestinian protesters took over parts of the Brooklyn Museum on Friday, hanging a banner above the main entrance, occupying much of the lobby and scuffling with police, witnesses said.

The art museum in the New York City borough of Brooklyn said it closed an hour early because of the disruption, including skirmishes between police and protesters that took place inside and outside the building.

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Some arrests were made but a New York Police Department spokesperson said there would be no official count until after the protest concluded. A demonstration continued outside the museum hours after the initial confrontation, but the spokesperson could not say whether any protesters remained inside.

One of the arrests was of a man who defaced an outdoor sculpture with graffiti, a Reuters witness said. Several protesters scrawled messages on the OY/YO sculpture on the plaza outside the entrance.

“There was damage to existing and newly installed artwork on our plaza,” a museum spokesperson said in an email. “Protesters entered the building, and our public safety staff were physically and verbally harassed.

“Out of a concern for the building, our collections, and our staff, the decision was made to close the building an hour early,” and the public was asked to vacate peacefully, the statement said.

Hundreds of demonstrators were marching through Brooklyn when some of them rushed the entrance, according to the Reuters witness. Security guards prevented many from entering but some managed to get inside.

A banner was hung from atop the neoclassical facade proclaiming, “Free Palestine, Divest From Genocide.”

A pro-Palestinian organization named Within Our Lifetime urged demonstrators to “flood Brooklyn Museum for Gaza.” It said activists occupied the museum to compel it to disclose any Israel-related investments and to divest any such funding.

Demonstrations against Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza have continued in the United States, largely on university campuses.

At Columbia University in upper Manhattan, demonstrators on Friday set up an encampment on campus during an alumni reunion to show support for Palestinians. Video on social media showed campus security taking down the tents. As of Friday night, police were not involved, as they had been in taking down the camp and evicting or arresting protests twice before.

“We are aware of the encampment erected this evening and are monitoring the situation. We remain committed to hosting a successful weekend for our alumni,” Columbia spokesperson Samantha Slater said in a statement.

The Israeli-Palestinian war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people.

Palestinian health authorities estimate more than 36,280 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel responded.

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