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Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony proceeds despite protests

The lighting ceremony has been an annual holiday tradition since the 1930s, drawing thousands of visitors to New York City each season.
Posted at 12:19 PM, Nov 30, 2023

The iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony in New York City went somewhat according to plan Wednesday night, despite some disruptions by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several hundred demonstrators calling for a cease-fire in Gaza clashed with police as thousands of people gathered for the holiday tradition. Authorities said they attempted to contain the group with barriers, but the protesters ultimately broke through and began marching through the streets, just blocks away from the ceremony.

Videos from the scene posted on social media showed fights breaking out and arrests being made as the crowd attempted to push toward the tree. But the demonstrators eventually turned around and marched in the opposite direction.

34 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested for disrupting Macy's Parade
Pro-Palestinian protesters get arrested by the police during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

34 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested for disrupting Macy's Parade

The protesters wore jumpsuits covered in fake blood and tried to glue themselves to a street in front of the McDonald’s float.

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Nonetheless, the ceremony continued without any further disruptions and the city rang in the holiday season with its 91st tree lighting. The Radio City Rockettes kicked off the festivities with several routines from their Christmas Spectacular show. 

The opening night ceremony also featured a duet from Cher and Darlene Love, singing "Christmas (Baby Come Home)," as well as musical performances from 10 other artists. New York City Mayor Eric Adams closed out the night by flipping the switch on the 12-ton, 80-foot-tall Norway spruce that's decorated with more than 50,000 lights and topped with a 900-pound Swarovski crystal star.

The Rockefeller lighting ceremony has been an annual holiday tradition since the 1930s, drawing thousands of visitors to the city each season. The tree will be lit from 5 a.m. to midnight every day until Jan. 13 — except on Christmas Day, when it will be illuminated for 24 consecutive hours.