NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — The lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree went off without a hitch Wednesday night, despite a handful of arrests made during a pro-Palestinian demonstration nearby.
After rallying for at least an hour outside the News Corp building at 47th Street and Sixth Avenue, a crowd of at least 500 pro-Palestinian demonstrators unfurled a large flag and briefly tried to push its way north toward the tree, where a line of police and barricades were waiting.
Stopped in its tracks, the group then reversed course, resulting a crush of people, scuffles and seven arrests.
Six adults and one juvenile were arrested.
The most serious charges stemming from the protests were against 30-year-old Tasfia Islam of Queens, charged with felony criminal mischief for knocking a cell phone out of a person’s hand.
Five others were charged with obstructing governmental administration for interfering with police operations. Those five received desk appearance tickets to appear in court at a later date.
A seventh person, a 15-year-old boy, received a juvenile report and was released to a guardian
Thousands of people came to Midtown for a chilly, but joyous evening as the 80-foot-tall Norway spruce was lit for the holiday season.
Ahead of the celebration, the NYPD prepared for the increased possibility of security threats. Officials said there was a precedent when it comes to terrorist activity and holiday-related events or mass gatherings.
According to an NYPD threat assessment obtained by ABC News, “The U.S. continues to face a heightened and dynamic risk environment from a variety of extremists amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and malicious actors may view mass gatherings, iconic locations and high-profile events as targets of opportunity during the holiday season.”
“We allow people to exercise their first amendment, but by no means do we allow anyone to come out here to do hate, crime or assault,” said NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell.
Street closures around Rockefeller Center also went into effect Wednesday. Cars will not be permitted on streets around Rockefeller Center between 11 a.m. and 12 a.m. every day, opening up the cross streets on East 51st and 48th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues to pedestrians to view the tree and enjoy the other festive sites this holiday season.
Those changes will remain in effect through New Year’s Day.
Fifth Avenue will also be fully open to pedestrians between 48th and 59th on the first three Sundays in December.
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