NYC: “improvised grenades” go off at UK consulate; activists face scrutiny

CNN reports May 5:

New York – Two “improvised explosive devices” made from “novelty-type grenades” have exploded in front of the building that houses the British Consulate in New York City, police and officials said. The early Thursday morning blasts shattered windows but did not cause significant damage or any injuries, the New York Police Department said. The devices, which contained black gunpowder and a fuse, blew out a chunk of concrete in the flower box where they were planted outside the building. The explosions occurred as voters in Britain were casting ballots in a general election in which Prime Minister Tony Blair is seeking a historic third term for his Labour Party. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police had no indication who was responsible for the blasts. “It is true the British Consulate is in that building, but I don’t think anybody should jump to conclusions,” Bloomberg told reporters at the scene in midtown Manhattan.

This admonition has, predictably, failed to stop undue media speculation, if not quite conclusion-jumping. The NY Times could not resist linking the incident to recent peaceful protests outside the building:

Other occupants of the building have attracted controversy in the past, the police said. One recent protest, for example, concerned Israeli policy on Palestinians, and was directed at an official of the Caterpillar Corporation there, since the Israeli Army uses special Caterpillar bulldozers.

Israel’s Haaretz went further:

Police chief Raymond Kelly told reporters he was looking at another possible target — a board member of Caterpillar Inc. – who works in the building. The company sells bulldozers used by Israel to raze Palestinian homes. Kelly said there had been a protest outside the building by a group called Jews Against the Occupation on April 13. On its web site, the group describes itself as “American Jews (who) reject the Israeli government assertion that it is ‘necessary’ to subjugate Palestinians for the sake of keeping Jews safe.”

New York’s Newsday also quoted Kelly in this allusion, while at least giving the activists a chance to defend themselves:

The commissioner noted that left wing Jewish activists demonstrated last month against another tenant — a board member of Caterpillar Inc. — over the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. A sponsor of the rally, Jewish Voice for Peace, “only engages in nonviolent activities — period,” spokeswoman Liat Weingart said.

Jews Against the Occupation (JATO) is committed to public protest, and is currently preparing a protest at New York’s annual “Salute to Israel” parade, slated for June 5. The last thing they need, presumably, is the police scrutiny that such adventurist yahoo-ism as this “improvised explosive device” incident is likely to bring.

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), primarily San Francisco-based, describes itself as “the largest grassroots Jewish peace group in the United States”, with a “guiding principle…that United States foreign policy must be based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law. Accordingly, until Israel ends it Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, we call upon the United States to suspend military aid to Israel and on U.S. corporations such as Caterpillar to stop supplying the Israeli army. We denounce all violence against all civilians.”

The CNN account emphasizes the low-tech nature of the attack at the building (845 Third Ave., near 51st Street):

The blasts sent a 1 foot (30 cm) chunk of concrete from the planter flying into a panel of glass in the building. One of the grenades looked like a pineapple and the other like a lemon, an investigator said, adding that similar items could be purchased at any toy store. Police said the devices had been altered to explode by the addition of black gunpowder. “It was one of those things you light and then run,” a police spokesman told the UK’s Press Association.

This unsophisticated character, while doing nothing to alleiviate New York’s permanent terrorist scare, will probably also further fuel the city’s current anarchist scare, which has been all the rage among cops and tabloids since the Republican National Convention protests.

  1. Activists respond
    For immediate release

    Date: May 5, 2005
    Contact: Alexis (917) 952-5080/ Madiha (609) 439-1982


    New York, NY – The Palestine Activist Forum of New York (PAFNY)
    deplores in the strongest terms the efforts in the press to link our
    peaceful protest on April 13, 2005 — opposing Caterpillar’s sale of
    machinery used by the Israeli military to illegally demolish
    Palestinian civilian homes — to the explosion in Manhattan today.

    PAFNY members groups, including JATO, and the Stop Caterpillar
    campaign only engage in non-violent activities. Period. No activist
    on the Stop Caterpillar campaign has ever used violence or threatened
    to use violence.

    There simply is no link between the explosion and PAFNY, nor the Stop
    Caterpillar campaign. We have no knowledge of this explosion other
    than what we have read in news accounts.

    We have read that the explosives were placed in a planter outside a
    20-story building with hundreds of offices, including the British
    Consulate, any of which or none of which may have been a target. And
    we have read that the Stop Caterpillar protest — wrongly attributed
    to Jews Against the Occupation by Police Commissioner Kelly — has
    been “mentioned.”

    There is no point in “mentioning” the Stop Caterpillar campaign or
    JATO in news accounts of this explosion, since there is no link,
    except to smear us. The smearing of groups like Stop Caterpillar or
    JATO is part of a pattern of media and law-enforcement attempts to
    silence dissent, and discredit groups which engage in political
    activism and/or groups that protest Israeli violations of human

    Press organizations that have reported this false information are
    bound to provide immediate corrections. Police Commissioner Kelly,
    having issued false and damaging statements about PAFNY, JATO and the
    Stop Caterpillar campaign, should issue an immediate apology.

    About PAFNY:

    The Palestine Activist Forum of New York (PAFNY) is an independent
    network of organizations and individuals in the New York City area
    committed to justice for the people of Palestine. We are Muslims,
    Christians, Jews and atheists. We come from a variety of different
    cultural and ethnic backgrounds but we are united in horror and
    outrage at the atrocities being committed daily by the Israeli
    military in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.