They were testing the New Year’s Eve ball today in Times Square ahead of Sunday’s celebrations, but the real spectacle was happening on the streets.
In a self-declared “heightened threat environment” since Hamas’ murderous assault on Israeli communities near the border with Gaza and the butchering of thousands on October 7, and the punishing military response by the Jewish state, the NYPD is pulling out all the security stops openly and behind the scenes in anticipation of protests and potential violence.
With big NYE specials in the final stages, networks are gearing up for an anticipated unruly night.
Amidst bubbling online chatter and activist promises of a big turnout of pro- Palestinian and anti-Israeli protestors on December 31, New York Mayor Eric Adams insisted on Friday in a Times Square press conference with Chief Jeff Maddrey and other top cops that “there are no specific threats to the city.” Yet, as hundreds of large and small protests for a ceasefire and against Israel have occurred in NYC alone since early October, the former NYPD officer also noted “as we saw last year, after having no specific threats we get a threat, and we are going to be ready.” On the last day of 2022, three NYPD officers were attacked by a 19-year-old man from Maine with a machete over US support for Israel.
A self-described “Shut It Down! For Palestine” protest and march is being put together by various groups for the afternoon of December 31. The event would begin at Columbus Circle, which is at the tip of the NYPD’s planned security perimeter, and the site of CNN‘s NYC HQ. Having seen Macy’s Thanksgiving parade interrupted by anti-Israel protesters, a surge in antisemitism, airport access in NYC, LA and elsewhere blocked and high profile events like the lightening of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center under siege in the past two months, the NYPD are being unusually upfront about their strategy this NYE
“We’re going to have tow trucks strategically parked along the actual New Year’s Eve festivities, and we’re going to have drones deployed around the outer perimeter so we can monitor the protests, potential protests that are coming in real time,” Assistant NYPD Commissioner Kaz Daughtry stated on December 29, noting the security zone will be expanded over last year’s celebrations.
The signature global New Year’s event for decades, up to a million people could swarm Times Square on Sunday to bring in 2024.
Amidst outlets from all over the nation and the globe joining the expected throng of revelers in Times Square, CNN is back with its often off-scripted NYE Special with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen. With even more traditional pedigree, ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest Co-hosted by co-host Rita Ora, the multi-houred festivities have performances from Queens’s own LL Cool J, Megan Thee Stallion, Jelly Roll, Sabrina Carpenter and Tyla, as well as Cardi B beamed in from a warmer Miami.
Contacted by Deadline, both networks deferred to the NYPD and the city on security matters arising out of the situation in the Middle East. To that end, Mayor Adams added at Friday’s press conference that “the full complement of our public safety apparatus will be on display.” Any attempt at disruption or violence will not “be tolerated,” the first term mayor declared of this year’s NYE and protesters. “It’s not going to be accepted.”
However, in the knowledge that getting the attention of their cameras are the primary goal of any protesters that do show up, a cable news source said “we are prepared for anything and everything, especially when it comes to the safety of our team.”
A veteran law enforcement source tells Deadline, the police presence on the NYE site itself will be “significantly greater than usual,” even with all that has been made public already. “A lot can happen, we are prepared.”
Restrictions on what can and cannot be brought into Times Square as well as road closures go into effect Sunday morning – AKA lose the backpack. The FBI, Homeland Security and state police will be in place, along with newly sworn in officers, cops on horseback, canine units, bomb squads and more will be in around Times Square.
Officially, the NYPD intends to use the “blueprint,” in Assistant Commissioner Daughtry’s words, that was put in place to varying degrees of success to stop disruption of the Christmas tree lightening last month by pro-Palestinian groups.
That could be the real test.
Ted Johnson contributed to this report