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Congressperson Ilhan Omar supporters, critics clash in Bay Ridge

BY VICTOR PORCELLI

Protesters and counter-protesters set up near the Bay Ridge office of Rep. Max Rose on Sunday, June 23, with one group demanding that Rose censure fellow Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar and the other voicing support of the embattled Minnesota lawmaker.

The original protest was called by Americans Against Antisemitism, a new group founded by former Democratic Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who represented Boro Park before retiring from the state legislature. The protesters — whose leaders also included Brooklyn Reform Party Chair Bob Capano and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa — urged Rose to call for Omar, who has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The group opposing Omar, numbering around 20 protesters, gathered on the corner of Third Avenue and 82nd Street. A crowd of counter-protesters — around three times the size of the original protest — gathered on the opposite side of the street, voicing support of Omar.

In February, Omar apologized for a tweet in which she said supporting Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” which critics claimed referenced an anti-Semitic belief that Jewish people control foreign policy through money. Rose criticized Omar on Twitter for the remark and later hosted a town hall on the topic. During the town hall, Rose apologized to his constituents on behalf of Omar but said he did not support her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We are faced today, in this country and in this city, with a break-out of anti-Semitism like we’ve never seen before in my life,” Hikind told Brooklyn Reporter. “With the things that [Omar] has said, she does not belong on the Foreign Affairs Committee.”

Hikind said that although he appreciated Rose’s previous apologies for Omar’s comments, he thinks Rose should speak out again due to recent controversies, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling U.S. detention centers for immigrant children concentration camps and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker saying he would meet with Louis Farrakhan, who has been criticized for making anti-Semitic remarks. 

“A lot of Democrats are afraid that progressives are going to run against them, so they cower, they hide,” Hikind said. “We’re here to say ‘do the right thing,’ and it’ll be a no-brainer for [Rose] politically next year.”

Photo courtesy of Bob Capano
Protesters set up outside Rep. Max Rose’s office on Sunday to urge him to call for embattled Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Counter-protesters adopted the same chant as the protesters at one point, with both parties yelling “Max Rose, do the right thing” in tandem. Led by a coalition of Bay Ridge grassroots organizations which included Yalla Brooklyn, a group focused on getting Arab and Muslim residents in Southern Brooklyn out to vote, counter-protesters came out to support Omar and encourage Rose to support her.

“I think that it’s interesting to see that [the protesters] are targeting Max Rose, when he was the first person to come out and bash Ilhan Omar,” President of Yalla Brooklyn Murad Awawdeh told Brooklyn Reporter. “Max Rose needs to understand, he has the largest Palestinian community, the largest Muslim community in one district, here, in his district.”

Awawdeh said that counter-protesters came to stop Islamophobic sentiment from being spread. He mentioned a hate crime that occurred recently in Sheepshead Bay, where someone spray-painted the message ‘Kill Arabs’ on a bus shelter, saying that “it’s because of people like Dov Hikind that things like that can happen.

“We can’t stand and allow someone to come in here and spew more hatred in our communities,” Awawdeh said.

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