About 150 artists and cultural workers including photographer Nan Goldin and poet Eileen Myles flooded the lobby of the New York Times headquarters in midtown Manhattan yesterday evening, November 9, to protest the news publication’s coverage of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Led by a group calling themselves Writers’ Bloc, the demonstration was one of multiple actions that occurred throughout the city as part of a global protest campaign called Shut It Down For Palestine.
Writers’ Bloc demonstrators overtook the news publication’s lobby at the end of the work day. As a nod to the AIDS coalition ACT UP and its spin-off group Gran Fury, the group distributed approximately 4,000 custom-printed broadsheets titled “The New York Crimes” and featuring the headlines “Ceasefire Now!” and “We Killed Our Colleagues.” Each broadsheet was lined with over 2,600 names of Palestinian civilians and 35 journalists killed by Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza strip over the past month.
Waving imitation newspapers, banners, and Palestinian flags, group members read aloud the names of the the fourteen members on the Times’s editorial board, chanting “New York Times: Blood on Your Hands” in unison between each name. Afterwards, the protestors began reciting the journalist and civilian names included in the broadsheet, starting with the youngest victims.
Writers’ Bloc member and organizer Elena Comay del Junco told Hyperallergic that the idea of protesting at the paper’s headquarters came out of discussions that “have been going on for years” and became more public since October 7.
“We thought that as people working broadly within the cultural sphere, it would be important to use our positioning to draw attention to the media’s role, and to the Times specifically,” Comay del Junco said. “Both for their coverage, which has been very specifically harmful in manufacturing consent for the ongoing genocide, but also for the way that they stand in for the American media as a whole, and not just the kind of right-wing outlets like Fox News.”
The action happened just hours after artist Nan Goldin announced on Instagram that she had canceled a cover shoot for the New York Times Magazine over what she characterized as the paper’s “complicity with Israel.”
Comay del Junco also referred to the Times’ own “Incalculable Loss” cover produced in May 2020, in which the publication enlisted various health authorities, freelancers, and graduate researchers to collect the names and ages and brief anecdotes about the people who died of COVID-19, as an inspiration for the group’s own “The New York Crimes” composition, holding a mirror up to what the group sees as the news outlet’s selective humanity.
Comay del Junco explained that there aren’t comparable resources in Gaza, especially amid the indiscriminate bombarding, to assemble a list with that level of detail. When Writers’ Bloc began designing the broadsheet, the Gazan Health Ministry had just released the names of just under 7,000 murdered civilians. By the time of the demonstration, the death toll had surpassed 10,000.
Israel’s recent attacks began on October 7 after Hamas militants reportedly killed nearly 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals and took approximately 240 hostages. Israeli forces have since launched a multi-tiered assault on the Gaza Strip, killing over 10,569 Palestinians with constant airstrikes, a deadly siege, and a ground invasion, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. In addition, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reported that at least 2,450 others, including 1,350 children, are missing, presumably caught beneath rubble from collapsed infrastructure. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also reports that 158 Palestinians, including 44 children, have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank in the past four weeks.
Writers’ Bloc also published a statement demanding that the Times editorial board support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The group cited a November 3 editorial by the newspaper that called for “a pause in hostilities” rather than a complete ceasefire in Gaza, and accused the publication of biased coverage that has ignored Israel’s longstanding “apartheid and land theft,” including the last 17 years of military siege on the Gaza Strip. The bloc also accused the Times of “unquestioningly repeating false and unsubstantiated claims made by the Israeli government and military without independently verifying these claims,” and referenced the Israeli government’s history of perpetuating false and misleading information.
“By repeating the insidious claim that a ceasefire ‘would accomplish little at this point,’ the Board has enabled the Israeli government’s genocidal killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” the Writers Bloc’ wrote in their statement, which cited the numerous human rights organizations and international community members who have vocalized support for a ceasefire and expressed solidarity with Palestine.
“We urge the Board to do the right thing and call for an immediate and complete ceasefire before any more lives are lost, and to stop erasing context from their coverage that is vital to any understanding of what is taking place,” the statement concludes. “Not another bomb should be dropped on civilians in Gaza. This does not have to go on.”
In response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, a spokesperson for the New York Times said that the newspaper “has extensively covered the Israel-Hamas war with fairness, impartiality, and an abiding understanding of the complexities of the conflict.”
“We fully support this group’s right to express their point of view, even as we disagree with their characterization of our coverage,” the representative said.
Yesterday’s demonstration at the Times lobby and outside of its headquarters lasted a little longer than an hour as Writers’ Bloc members recited as many names as they could before the police arrived. No arrests were made as the evacuating demonstrators merged with the broader march led by the Palestinian Youth Movement, outside the Times headquarters.
“The names were clearly enunciated so that passersby could also hear the names of those who have been killed and recognize that the Times’s role and the media’s role more generally in causing and in generating the conditions that led to their deaths,” Comay del Junco said.