Lunar New Year Parade Calls Out Displacement in Chinatown and Palestine

Every year, Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown hosts the city’s biggest celebration of the Lunar New Year in an elaborate parade that weaves its way through the historic New York neighborhood, abound with intricate performances, brightly colored confetti, and traditional puppets. The Year of the Dragon parade held yesterday, February 25 brought attention to global and local issues of displacement as marchers protested a highly-criticized mega jail development and Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza — in spite of a stipulation by event organizers barring “controversial” political expressions.

The advocacy group Asians for Palestine (A4P) covertly joined the parade by uniting with community organization Art Against Displacement (AAD), which has long been protesting the expansion of a jail that threatens to displace local residents. Trailing behind AAD organizers, who carried a red and yellow dragon float decorated with the words “NO NEW JAIL,” demonstrators with A4P marched along with banners calling for ceasefire and their bright-green Lunar New Year “resistance lion,” nicknamed Melon, who was unveiled in at the junction of East Broadway and Market Street. 

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“We celebrate the Lunar New Year by wishing each other and our families and our community health, safety, and prosperity for generations, and in Gaza, whole family lines are being wiped out because our tax money is funding a genocide,” Brooklyn resident and A4P organizer Marion Yuen told Hyperallergic. Since Hamas’s October 7 attack, relentless Israeli hostilities have killed upwards of 29,782 Palestinians in Gaza and 382 Palestinians in the West Bank, according to today’s United Nations report.

A4P demonstrators also distributed handmade “Free Palestine” zines calling for an immediate ceasefire printed in Chinese, English, and Korean and packaged in festive red envelopes filled with green tea packets, dragon stickers, and lychee-flavored candies. This was A4P’s second Lunar New Year action after a similar, smaller demonstration during the New Year celebration in Flushing, Queens on February 11. 

A4P organizers told Hyperallergic that the group initially hid their pro-Palestine banners, purposely waiting to unveil their banners at the intersection of Mott Street and Bayard Street and later the resistance lion at Market Street, because they were technically not approved to march in the parade. Groups interested in participating are required to fill out an application form that must be approved and confirmed by the Lunar New Year Celebration Committee, an organizing body consisting of numerous community leaders and volunteers formed by the NYC-based group Better Chinatown USA. A clause in the application states that the event organizers “invite and welcome any non-controversial political or religious organization” to participate.

“What I can’t wrap my head around is that these politicians and community leaders are talking about the displacement of Chinatown residents, but here we are seeing two million people in Gaza being displaced, yet they don’t say a word,” local photographer and parade attendee Cindy Trinh told Hyperallergic.

The Lunar New Year Celebration Committee has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

In various expressions of solidarity with Palestine, AAD has pointed to the throughline in the shared resistance to gentrification and colonialism. 

“We support abolition and condemn all forms of displacement, whether at home or abroad: that means opposing both the megajail and the occupation of Palestine, and realizing that our struggles are interconnected,” Cindy Hwang of AAD told Hyperallergic

Michelle Nguyen, who attended the parade to rally with Asians For Palestine, brought a handmade solidarity sign and a miniature red and gold resistance lion adorned with a keffiyeh and the Palestinian flag.

“Wars and genocides don’t stop after the last bullet is shot or the last bomb is dropped. It takes generations for us to heal from imperialism and war,” said Nguyen, whose family is from Vietnam and Laos — two countries that were subjected to two of the heaviest bombing campaigns in history, both led by the United States.

“The Palestine struggle is our struggle and it doesn’t end with a ceasefire, but it ends with the liberation and reparations for people in Palestine,” Nguyen said.

The A4P and AAD demonstrations winded their way through the rest of the parade route, carrying on to the finish line shortly after Grand Street. The event ended shortly after 3pm.


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