U.S. Rep. Torres will not be intimidated by protestors

A ‘bloody’ baby Jesus doll left outside office on Christmas Day


U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres refuses to be intimidated after pro-Palestine activists vandalized his Belmont office Christmas Day. That vandalism was in the form of a Nativity scene of a doll covered in red paint and “rubble” meant to symbolize baby Jesus.

The New York Police Department received a report for “criminal mischief” from a 61-year-old employee at the congressman’s district office  who returned on Dec. 26 around 7 a.m. No arrests have been made and an investigation is being conducted by the 48th Precinct according to DCPI.

“I see the vandalism as part of a broader pattern of intimidation,” Torres told The Riverdale Press. “I fully support the rights of every American who protests peacefully. But what we’ve seen increasingly from anti-Israel activists is not peaceful protests. We’ve seen attempts at intimidation, harassment, vandalism and even violence at times.”

This is at least the third time this year that Torres’ Bronx office has been left defaced by pro-Palestine protestors. Torres was also recently heckled at the 92nd Street Y while speaking about the Abraham Accords Act. With one of his colleagues, Congressman Adam Smith of Washington, having his home vandalized by those seeking a ceasefire, Torres fears that things will escalate in a dangerous direction.

“In a post-Jan. 6 world, the safety of members of Congress can no longer be taken for granted,” Torres said. “I’m convinced that violent assault or assassination of a Congressmember is not a question of if, but a matter of when.”

Torres said that there is no topic that gets him more harassment and death threats than the subject of Israel. While his staff is shaken by the latest vandalism, he says they all have no choice but to soldier on because “this could only be the beginning.”

The vandalism comes in the wake of a reported more than 20,000 Palestinians killed by Israel Defense Forces, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health.

“I don’t know if they were attacking Christianity or making a point that if baby Jesus was born he’d be wounded or something like that,” said Father Brian McCarthy of St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Gabriel Church. “How this helps bring peace to the Holy Land is kind of silly. It’s like when they’re blocking traffic, how does that help the people in the Holy Land?”

McCarthy said if the point was to say if Jesus was born today he’d be suffering there were better ways to make that point. His condemnation of the vandalism was shared by principal of SAR Academy Rabbi Binyamin Krauss.

“I was horrified to learn of the vandalism this holiday week at Congressman Torres’ office,” said Krauss. “There should be no place for hate and destruction in the name of religion. Congressman Torres will continue to speak with integrity, and has never been intimidated by those who try to use violence and vandalism in order to silence him. We are grateful for his voice and his service.”

While the act of vandalism was perceived as a form of intimidation by the congressman and several others, it was not viewed that way by everybody. Jennifer Scarlott, coordinator of North Bronx Racial Justice, explained to The Press the baby doll was a reference to the religious community in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. One of the reasons the annual Christmas celebration there was cancelled this year was due to the Palestinian lives lost in Gaza.

Munther Isaac, pastor of Bethlehem’s Lutheran Evangelical Church, wanted to send the world a message with 2023’s nativity scene. That scene, according to The Guardian, was a baby doll wrapped in a keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestine, in the center of broken blocks, to represent that if Jesus was born today, “he’d be born under the rubble of Gaza.”

“These activists in my opinion are being thoughtful. Their action in placing the doll was not meant to intimidate,” Scarlott told The Press. “That’s actually the opposite of what they were striving for. They’re striving to appeal to Congressman Torres’ conscience, to his compassion, to his humanity. The blood on the doll was not to intimidate but to say there are infants and babies and toddlers all across Gaza who now  nearly 10,000 of them have died in the rubble, covered in their own blood.”

She also critiqued Torres for calling the vandals “anti-Israel extremists” on social media, adding that there are likely pro-Palestine activists who are also pro-Israel in the sense that they are worried that Israel’s actions are endangering it.

Stuart Chen-Hayes, a professor at Lehman College, told The Press Torres should be fighting for a ceasefire and an end to the casualties.

“This symbolic act of free speech, protected by the first amendment, represents Christians and Muslims who have been murdered by USA and Israel assaults on Gaza and the West Bank,” Chen-Hayes said.

Referencing the death toll, Torres told The Press the fault of casualties lie not with Israel, but the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas who launched their attack on Israel Oct. 7.

“I think the United States has been constructively pressuring Israel to do everything it can to minimize casualties,” he said. “There should be three operations unfolding at once.”

Those three operations, he says, should be one, a diplomatic mission to release the hostages; two, a humanitarian operation to bring aid to Gaza citizens in distress and lastly a military operation to remove Hamas from power and prevent another Oct. 7. The act of protest at Torres’ office was not the only one Christmas Day. Hundreds of pro-Palestine protestors flooded the streets of Manhattan to “cancel” Christmas and call for a ceasefire, resulting in clashes between demonstrators and the NYPD, and ultimately resulting in six arrests with charges ranging from making graffiti to menacing, according to State of the Union.

Another New York Congress members’ office was vandalized days after Torres.’

Congressman Mike Lawler’s office on Dec. 27 was covered with sticky notes criticizing his pro-Israel views.


Ritchie Torres, protest, Christmas, Palestinians, Father Brian McCarthy, Rabbi Benyamin Krauss, Israel, Hamas, vandalism, Abraham Accords, antisemitism, war, Gaza