New Yorkers Protest Governor Cuomo’s Attack on Civil Liberties of Supporters of Palestinian Rights, Call for Rescinding of Executive Order

July 6, 2016 - Today, a diverse group of about 150 New Yorkers protested in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Westchester County residence, calling on him to rescind his recent executive order attacking the grassroots boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. Legal organizations like the New York Civil Liberties Union and Palestine Legal have stated that Governor Cuomo’s executive order threatens the Constitutional rights of all New Yorkers to engage in boycotts and other economic acts of conscience in support of human rights and social justice struggles.

The protesters marched from the Mount Kisco train station to Cuomo’s residence, holding signs saying, “We will continue to boycott for justice until Israel ends the brutal military occupation of Palestine,” and “Right to Boycott,” and chanting “Andrew Cuomo, what a shame, playing Joe McCarthy’s game.” Hundreds of interested passersby took flyers headlined, “Tell Governor Cuomo: rescind the executive order, we have the right to boycott for Palestinian freedom.” The protesters left behind a cardboard tombstone reading “RIP 1st Amendment” that they were promised will be delivered to Governor Cuomo.

Organized by the Freedom to Boycott NYS Coalition, which works with more than 100 community and human rights organizations throughout the state, today’s protest follows Governor Cuomo’s signing of a McCarthyite executive order on June 5, ordering state agencies to divest from organizations that support the Palestinian call to boycott and divest from companies and academic and cultural institutions profiting from or complicit in Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people and violations of international law. Further, the order requires the creation of a publicly available blacklist of all companies and institutions that support using boycotts to bring about justice for Palestinians. The Coalition also organized a June 9 protest at Cuomo’s Manhattan office, and a June 15 protest at the State Capital in Albany.

Nada Khader, Director of White Plains-based WESPAC Foundation: A Peace & Justice Action Network, one of the groups that organized the protest, explained: “We are appalled at Governor Cuomo's blatant disregard for both freedom of speech and expression, and for silencing voices advocating for Palestinian human rights and freedoms through their support of BDS. Governor Cuomo's unconstitutional action functions as part of a larger right wing and anti-democratic agenda in the United States to hinder support of the growing BDS movement. He should rescind his order immediately.”

Shannon Wong, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s - Lower Hudson Valley Chapter, said: “The state cannot penalize individuals or entities on the basis of their free expression, and political boycotts are a form of free expression. Creating a government blacklist that imposes state sanctions based on political beliefs raises first amendment concerns, and this executive order is no exception.”

Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal, said: "Governor Cuomo must understand that the government may not punish businesses and other institutions because of their speech activities and political viewpoints. With this executive order, Cuomo has made clear that he has no problem trampling our constitutional rights in order to shield Israel from criticism and accountability, but New Yorkers will not accept being blacklisted for their political views. We look forward to learning more from government documents, in response to our freedom of information request, about the origins of this executive order to expose what's really behind Cuomo's decision."

Jane Hirschmann, founding member of Jews Say No!, one of the groups that organized the protest, said: “We will continue to stand for justice and support boycotts for Palestinian rights until the Palestinian people achieve freedom, justice, and equality. We refuse to accept Governor Cuomo’s attempt to silence us and we will continue to defy his Executive Order. He cannot repress our growing movement for Palestinian rights. We demand that he rescind this order immediately.”

For more information, see the following recent op-ed by Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, published by the Washington Post: I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel. See also this recent op-ed by Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, published in The Nation magazine: Governor Cuomo, Put Me on Your BDS Blacklist.

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July 6, 2016

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