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U.S. Cities Bolster Security at Religious Sites After Hamas Calls for Day of Protest

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Cities across the United States took extra security precautions on Friday after Hamas called for a day of protest around the world, rhetoric that raised tensions in Jewish and Muslim communities.

Top U.S. counterterrorism officials and law enforcement officials in many cities said there were no credible threats related to the Israel-Gaza war. But authorities still increased security around religious institutions and other public places.

In New York City, which has been on edge in the week since the attacks in Israel began, police officials reassured residents and increased patrols around synagogues and mosques and deployed more uniformed officers at large gatherings and cultural sites.

There was a noticeable increase in police presence, whether at transit hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal or synagogues and other Jewish sites. Jewish day schools were on high alert on Friday, with some canceling classes.

“We have this situation under control,” Rebecca Weiner, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said on Thursday at a news conference.

Officials in Los Angeles increased patrols around Jewish sites out of caution ahead of planned protests and demonstrations, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency, which enabled officials to bolster law enforcement around school campuses and protests. The Connecticut State Police said there were multiple threats made to synagogues and other locations in the state but that none of them were found to be credible.

Officials across Texas urged residents to remain vigilant. In Austin, the Police Department said it took steps involving patrols in several areas of the city. In Colleyville, where nearly two years ago members of Congregation Beth Israel were held hostage by a radicalized man from England, one house of worship reached out to another.

Anna Salton Eisen, one of the founders of Congregation Beth Israel, said that the nearby Gateway Church, one of the nation’s largest Christian churches, offered to lend its security team for the time being.

“This hate, it’s been simmering,” she said. “The thing I have to accept is that this is not going to end just after today.”

Advocacy organizations have reported a rise in hateful rhetoric and violence against Jews and Muslims. The Fresno Police Department in California said on Tuesday it was investigating two incidents involving vandalism — one at a temple and the other at a restaurant and bakery — as hate crimes.

In Columbus, Ohio, protesters at a pro-Palestine demonstration Thursday night said a person shouted obscenities about Palestinians and then swerved his car to hit a protester on a bike, according to a report in The Columbus Dispatch.

Protests around New York have been largely peaceful, but the anxieties the gatherings produced were testament to the shock felt over the attacks.

At a pro-Palestine rally in Times Square on Friday afternoon, hundreds of flag-waving protesters squeezed into tight scrums along two blocks and chanted angrily against Israel, as a ring of police officers and interlocked steel barriers helped maintain order.

More than three hours in, there were few, if any, clashes. Things even stayed nonviolent as some protesters traded taunts and jeers over crosstown traffic with a small group of pro-Israel protesters gathered across 42nd Street.

At college campuses across the country, political tensions remain high. In support of Palestinians, students at the University of California, Los Angeles, organized a walkout Thursday. At Columbia University, competing pro-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrations led officials to close the campus to the public.

There has been a rise in antisemitic violence in recent years in the United States, but this moment of fear among Jewish communities was especially potent, said Julie Platt, chair of Jewish Federations of North America.

She said the amount of money going toward security efforts in the North American Jewish community is “massively” increasing.

“I, too, have never quite felt this level of fear and anxiety and the depths of sadness,” Ms. Platt said.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that since the fighting in Israel began, there has been a “sudden resurgence” of bigotry against Muslims and Jews.

He added that since the attacks in Israel, the council has received “a flurry of complaints” from students, colleges and public schools of Muslims experiencing harassment or discrimination, and unprompted visits from law enforcement.

“It almost feels like we’ve gone back in time five years to when President Trump was running for office and Islamophobia was essentially out of control in the United States,” he said.

Mary Beth Gahan contributed reporting.

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