Since October 7, New York City has seen nearly 2,000 protests—about 12 protests per day, averaging 135 people each, though bridge-blocking actions can number up to 10,000 protesters. Indeed, unruly anti-Israel demonstrators in New York City have blocked the Brooklyn Bridge, Holland Tunnel, Columbus Circle, United Nations, John F. Kennedy International Airport, the New York Public Library, and, bizarrely, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The protesters are breaking the law by obstructing traffic, resisting arrest, and committing other acts of disorderly conduct. They are also harassing Jews and Jewish institutions, contributing to the tripling of anti-Semitic hate crimes between the first three months and last three months of 2023.

Where are New York’s police and prosecutors in all this? They are hamstrung by permissive state law, new city restrictions on police, and the decriminalization of “low-level” offenses. City leadership can restore order, but so far, it’s failing to do so.

Start with Mayor Eric Adams. In September, the mayor approved a settlement in a lawsuit brought against the city and police department by 2020’s “racial justice” demonstrators, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Aid Society, and state attorney general Letitia James. Adams praised the decree as “a collaborative process” that struck a balance between public safety and protesters’ rights of free expression. It does no such thing. Instead, the settlement has crippled the NYPD’s ability to keep demonstrations under control, contributing to the anti-Semitic disorder breaking out in city streets.

The settlement reduces officer discretion by creating four “tiers” for escalating law enforcement. It institutes “red light” offenses that require senior brass to authorize any arrest, even if they’re not on the scene. It dictates the number of officers permitted at demonstrations, specifies the units they can belong to, and determines what equipment they can bring. And its “kettling” ban—to use a tendentious term for ordinary crowd-control tactics—ties officers’ hands in the event that safety demands large-scale arrests.

Adams is not the only official appeasing protest groups. In November, hundreds of students at Hillcrest High School in Queens destroyed property in their effort to chase down and punish a teacher who had attended a pro-Israel rally and posted about it on social media. Temporizing, city schools chancellor David Banks called the episode a “teachable moment.” Needless to say, safety and civility shouldn’t be “taught” by radical anti-Zionist crusaders.

In December, Adams reversed his rhetoric on the police agreement. He stated, “As soon as I read the settlement, I said, ‘This is a problem.’ ” Yet apparently, it wasn’t a significant enough problem for Adams to try to pull out of the decree—or support others who wanted to do so. When the Police Benevolent Association submitted a last-ditch plea in January, arguing that the agreement would endanger officers, the lawyers of the city’s Corporation Counsel defended the agreement, noting the mayor’s original endorsement. Adams apparently didn’t bother to correct the record.

In February, Judge Colleen McMahon rejected the PBA’s concerns in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court. The police union is pursuing an appeal. Will Adams support that effort? How about the police commissioner? How about the city’s five district attorneys? City leaders concerned about radical anti-Semitism should do more than look for “balance” between the right to free speech and the right to safety. They should work to restore authority and flexibility to law enforcement.



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