Iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center illuminated in midst of pro-Palestinian protest
NEW YORK (AP) — The iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was lit by more than 50,000 multicolored lights Wednesday night as crowds massed in New York City for the holiday tradition.
The massive tree — a 12 ton, 80-foot-tall Norway spruce from upstate New York — was illuminated in Rockefeller Center by about five miles (8 kilometers) of LED string lights and topped with a 900-pound star covered in 3 million gleaming crystals.
Mayor Eric Adams took part in the lighting before a cheering throng and a chorus sang “Joy to the World.”
An opening night ceremony in Manhattan featured appearances by Cher, Barry Manilow and Kelly Clarkson, among others. The Radio City Rockettes also performed.
Starting in the 1930s, the Christmas tree tradition has drawn thousands of visitors to the city each year during the holiday season.
The tree will remain lit from 5 a.m. to midnight every day until Jan. 13. On Christmas day, it'll be lit 24 hours.
Police had warned of the potential for protesters to interrupt the event, as recent gatherings in New York have drawn activists seeking to bring attention to the Israel-Hamas war.
Videos posted to social media showed several hundred chanting pro-Palestinian protesters, many carrying Palestinian flags, crowded in front of the News Corp. building, not far from the tree site. The building houses Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Footage from the scene showed a few protesters clashing with police outside the media company's building as they tried to push forward to the tree but they were held back by police and the lighting ceremony wasn't disrupted.
The demonstrators then turned around and marched away down Sixth Avenue.
Last week, a group of protesters carrying a banner that read “Free Palestine” briefly interrupted the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, blocking the front of parade floats on the street. They were eventually taken into custody and the parade continued.