Inna Vernikov, a Republican Jewish member of the New York City Council from Brooklyn, was arrested Friday morning and charged with criminal possession of a firearm after pictures circulating on social media showed her with a gun at her waist. The photos show Vernikov participating in a pro-Israel counterprotest of a pro-Palestinian rally at Brooklyn College on Thursday.
Vernikov, 39, recently got a permit to carry a concealed gun after completing a mandatory New York State concealed-carry class. She said she got it because she feared for her safety. “With antisemitism, it doesn’t feel safe in the city anymore. Vernikov, a Ukrainian native, told the New York Post.
The gun she carried was a 9MM Smith & Wesson. New York state law bans the possession of guns at protests and rallies because they are considered “sensitive” locations.
In a video she posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Vernikov she showed up to make sure “Jewish students feel safe today,” as noted in a statement she released prior to the demonstration. Pointing to a crowd of students shouting “Free Palestine” and waving Palestinian flags she added: “If you are here today standing with these people you are nothing short of a terrorist without the bombs.”
— Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (@JFREJNYC) October 13, 2023
New York State Senator Julia Salazar wrote on X there was no excuse for an elected official to bring a firearm to a college campus, and “to intimidate Palestinian students” by wearing it on her waist.
The New York Police Department said Friday that Vernikov was contacted after the rally and told to turn herself in on a criminal possession of a weapon charge. She was booked at the 70th Precinct in Midwood early in the morning and released with a desk appearance ticket, a summons issued by a police officer to appear in criminal court.
The atmosphere at colleges and universities has been tense this week as Jewish and Israeli students mourn the victims of Hamas’ attack on Israel, and pro-Palestinian students blame Israel for deaths in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes. More than 1,300 Israelis were killed in Saturday’s massacre and more than 1,500 Palestinians have died from the heavy Israel bombardment of the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Khaled Mashal, the former leader of Hamas, called for Muslims to join a “day of rage” with global protests against Israel on Friday, sparking fears at Jewish institutions. New York officials said they have received no credible threats, but have nonetheless heightened security out of an abundance of caution.
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