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After Palestinian flag placed on Hanukkah menorah, New Haven affirms commitment to inclusivity

An outdoor menorah display on the New Haven Green on December 11, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
An outdoor menorah display on the New Haven Green on December 11, 2023.

A lone protestor placed a Palestinian flag atop a 30-foot-tall menorah on the New Haven Green over the weekend, spawning immediate condemnation from other protestors and local officials.

On Saturday, hundreds rallied in support of Palestinans, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. During the rally, a widely-circulated video from the New Haven Independent shows a person climbing the menorah with the flag as others implore them to climb down.

“Get down!” several protestors yell.

“Take the flag off!” another says.

“It looks bad for us!” yells another. Before the footage cuts out, several people can be seen gesturing and imploring the person to remove the flag. The flag was then immediately taken down by other protesters, according to the New Haven Independent.

Monday, political and faith leaders condemned what they called “the desecration of the Hanukkah menorah” during a press conference on the Green. The event was attended by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and the head of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.

Blumenthal condemned the act, calling it a desecration of a religious symbol, while calling for more federal funding from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides money to communities for security upgrades.

"So that these religious institutions — and symbols of religion like that menorah — are protected against vandalism and violence," Blumenthal said.

Yale University also issued a statement saying it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the desecration of a menorah on the New Haven Green during the religious holiday of Chanukah.”

“The placement of a Palestinian flag on the menorah conveys a deeply antisemitic message to Jewish residents of New Haven, including members of the Yale community,” the statement reads. “Yale’s regulations reach conduct occurring on or off campus that imperils the integrity and values of the University community, and if such conduct is committed by a member of the Yale community, we take action.”

It’s not clear if the protestor who placed the flag was a member of the Yale community, the university says.

The university says it has asked New Haven police to investigate the incident and Yale may conduct its own investigation.

But while many people and officials condemned the act caught on video, one attendee, Dan Garrett, disagrees with the characterization of the video. He was shouted down after asking Blumenthal to support a ceasefire.

He stressed the vast majority of people at the rally were peaceful and said the reaction to the event was a distraction to avoid dealing with the ongoing war in Gaza.

"I was at the rally on Saturday, there were hundreds of us, Garrett said. "It was peaceful. It was a really nice rally and it's just in defense of women and children being massacred in Gaza."

This story has been updated.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.
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