In the New York Capitol to stand for BDS

Dana Cloud reports from Albany on a protest against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his executive order against the BDS campaign challenging Israel apartheid.

Supporters of the BDS struggle sent a message in the state Capitol building (Laura Jaffee)Supporters of the BDS struggle sent a message in the state Capitol building (Laura Jaffee)

ABOUT 150 supporters of Palestine liberation converged on the New York state Capitol building in Albany on June 15 to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive action eliminating public funding to organizations in the state that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Executive Order No. 157, a first-in-the-nation action, directs state entities to divest all public funds supporting the boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. Cuomo announced the order at the Celebrate Israel Parade, stating, "New York stands in solidarity with Israel today and always."

Activists at the Capitol charged Cuomo with suppressing free speech and supporting apartheid and the brutal siege and occupation against Palestinians. Calling the order "McCarthyite," they pointed out that it is especially important to protest it, since it is the first such action in the U.S. and sets a dangerous precedent.

The demonstrators held a brief picket, with signs and banners reading, "Boycott Until the Siege of Gaza Ends," "Governor Cuomo, put me on your blacklist" and "No Suppression of Our First Amendment Rights: Support the BDS Movement."

After the picket, the demonstrators moved inside to the room named, ironically, the "War Room." Speakers delivered messages about their support for the freedom to boycott and for the liberation of Palestine to a packed crowd.

Black Lives Matter activist and Green Party leader Rosa Clemente thanked college students who are leading the way in the BDS movement. She explained how Hillary Clinton and others are using the anti-gay, anti-Latinx massacre in Orlando as a pretext for Islamophobia and imperialism.

Rani Allan, a student activist with the Palestine Solidarity Alliance at Hunter College, told the crowd that the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York system is considering a similar resolution. "But we will continue to boycott until the refugees return, the apartheid wall has fallen, and the occupation ends so that Palestinians are free," he said.

A Jewish Voices for Peace speaker called Cuomo's action a "McCarthyite attack. But we know that social movements are the only way to end oppression. We have to stand against homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia."

Ariel Gold from Code Pink held up a petition with 13,000 signatures against the executive order. After the rally, the crowd moved down the hall to deliver the petitions to Cuomo's office. Participants chanted, "You blacklist, we protest, boycott, sanctions and divest!" and "BDS is Not a Crime, from Albany to Palestine."

The governor's office staff refused to let petitioners in and directed them to turn in the petition at the reception desk. Allan explained the hostility, "These actions against BDS are a sign of our success. They are feeling the pressure. Cuomo is on the wrong side of history."