Watch CBS News

Protests, street closures for Biden fundraiser create gridlock outside Radio City Music Hall

Pro-Palestinian protests held outside campaign fundraiser for President Biden
Pro-Palestinian protests held outside campaign fundraiser for President Biden 01:45

NEW YORK -- There were protests and gridlock outside Radio City Music Hall on Thursday as President Joe Biden held a fundraiser attended by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Biden fundraiser draws pro-Palestinian protesters

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators took to the sidewalks outside Radio City Music Hall, chanting and screaming their messages, directing their anger toward the president. At times, their anger was directed at police officers.

An NYPD spokesperson told CBS News one person was detained, but there was no word on why. 

While some protested outside, demonstrators also interrupted the event inside multiple times. One interruption came as Obama was discussing Gaza, and he replied, "You can't just talk and not listen," prompting a standing ovation.

Watch Jenna DeAngelis' report

Biden fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall creates gridlock in Midtown Manhattan 02:37

Radio City Music Hall became even more of a tourist destination Thursday with people stopping to take pictures of the three presidents' names on the marquee.

"It's interesting that this is our first time in New York City and all these presidents are here when we choose to come. We had no idea until we got here that they were coming," said Kayley Ellison, from Tennessee.

"I think it's amazing. Yeah, we were really shocked when we heard they were here and we had just walked past this yesterday. Yeah, it feels impactful just to be here," tourist Kimberly Mulligan said. 

Biden and Obama arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport together Thursday afternoon and headed to Radio City for the fundraiser. Anytime there's a former or current commander-in-chief in town, not to mention three, traffic and tight security come with them.

"We were told not to really go anywhere driving, Ubering, just to walk," Ellison said.

Marie Loftus and her nephew, Seth, landed from Dublin on Thursday afternoon and found visibly tight security.

"We just showed up, and we're like, what's with all the roads being closed?" Seth Loftus said.

"We literally arrived here about three hours ago, so three-hour taxi drive to get here," Marie Loftus said. "I think it's a necessary thing. I mean, if all of this is going to happen and people have the right to protest, I mean, obviously you have to have backup like this."

The campaign fundraiser was hosted by actress Mindy Kaling. The star-studded guest list included Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo and Lea Michele. More than 5,000 tickets were sold, and the president expected to raise over $25 million.  

Biden visited New York City at least twice last month for campaign events. His first appearance on Feb. 7 led to widespread street closures and standstill traffic in Manhattan. His second trip on Feb. 26 was less disruptive. 

His first visit was also met by a large pro-Palestinian rally at Columbus Circle, which police said was largely peaceful.

Street closures in Midtown Manhattan

The NYPD shut down the area between Fifth and Sixth avenue from 49th to 51st street around Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan until 10 p.m., snarling traffic during much of the afternoon and evening rush hour.

"What this means for people in Midtown Manhattan, expect portions of Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, 49th, 50th, 51st streets to completely closed down, even to pedestrians," traffic expert Sam Schwartz said.

He added, "If you're going in the area, I would advise you to stay at 42nd Street or south. If you're going crosstown, 57th Street or north or, of course, take the subway."

President Joe Biden will be in New York City on Thursday, which means drivers should prepare for gridlock traffic. CBS New York

Schwartz said to avoid Midtown through the evening rush, and even after the event to the East Side.

"When the president leaves, you're going to see a number of the avenues get frozen in advance. That means no traffic moves," Schwartz said.

Schwartz says Biden would be heading over to the FDR Drive to head back to JFK.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.