NYC lawmaker arrested after bringing a gun to protest at Brooklyn College
Oct 13, 2023, 8:29 AM
NEW YORK (AP) — A pro-Israel lawmaker in New York City was arrested Friday for bringing a handgun to a student demonstration supporting Palestinians.
Inna Vernikov, a Republican member of the City Council, was seen in photos and videos with the butt of a pistol jutting out from her waistband while attending a student protest at Brooklyn College, according to the New York Police Department.
She turned herself in on Friday morning, was charged with felony criminal possession of a weapon and released.
Vernikov, who obtained a license last month to carry a concealed weapon, surrendered her firearm following the arrest, police said.
Under New York law, licensed gun owners may not bring weapons to certain sensitive locations, including protests and school grounds. The state requires people licensed to carry handguns to keep them hidden from public view.
Vernikov did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The phone at her district office in Brooklyn rang unanswered Friday. A message left at her City Council office in Manhattan wasn’t immediately returned.
New York City’s public university system has seen a wave of dueling protests in recent days following the Hamas attack on Israel and escalating war in Gaza.
Top elected officials, including New York City Mayor and New York Governor Kathy Hochul, have condemned the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which they have labeled as a celebration of Hamas.
The deepening tensions have also coincided with attacks, including at least two assaults on people holding Palestinian flags, according to New York police. A separate investigation has been launched into two young boys who allegedly pointed fake guns at a Brooklyn synagogue.
Vernokiv, who is Jewish and grew up in Ukraine, has been among the most outspoken opponents of Palestinian activists, describing the protesters as “terrorists” while accusing them of making Jewish students feel unsafe.
Nerdeen Kiswani, a Palestinian activist and CUNY law school graduate, said the lawmaker’s actions were an extension of citywide rhetoric that dehumanizes Palestinian concerns and stifles dissent.
“She falsely accuses us of being antisemitic then shows up to a rally brandishing a gun,” Kiswana added. “Who is really making us unsafe?”
Vernikov will have to return to court at a later date.