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NEW YORK (PIX11) – New York City Council member Inna Vernikov was arrested Thursday after pictures posted online showed she had a gun during a pro-Palestinian rally at Brooklyn College, according to the NYPD.
Vernikov, a Republican who represents the 48th District, was charged with criminal possession of a firearm. Photos posted online show the but-end of a gun sticking out from her pants, according to the NYPD.
The pro-Israel councilwoman spoke with PIX11 News during the rally, however, a gun was not visible on her person at that time.
Vernikov, accompanied by her attorney, turned herself in at the 70th Precinct and was released after she was charged. Both her firearm, which she is licensed to own, and her permit license were surrendered, police said.
Vernikov was charged because she was on school grounds in a “sensitive location” during a protest, a police source said.
Under New York law, licensed gun owners may not bring weapons to certain sensitive locations, including protests and school grounds. The state requires people licensed to carry handguns to keep them hidden from public view.
Gov. Kathy Hochul commented on the arrest on social media, saying, “New York’s gun safety laws apply to everyone.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams’ office said: “Bringing a firearm to a protest or rally is against the law, and no one is above the law.”
New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams released a statement condemning Vernikov’s actions.
“It is unacceptable and unlawful for a civilian to ever bring a firearm to a rally or protest, and especially important for elected officials to model a respect for the law that is expected of all New Yorkers. It is the responsibility of the NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney to enforce the law in what is a criminal matter, and the Council will respect that process. The Council is investigating the impact of Council Member Vernikov’s actions and the disposition within the legal process on her participation in the body. I am referring this matter to the Standards and Ethics Committee, which may require the recusal of committee members.”
Vernikov did not respond to PIX11’s requests for comment.
Top elected officials, including Hochul and Adams, have condemned the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which they have labeled as a celebration of Hamas.
The deepening tensions have also coincided with attacks, including at least two assaults on people holding Palestinian flags, according to New York police. A separate investigation has been launched into two young boys who allegedly pointed fake guns at a Brooklyn synagogue.
Vernikov, who is Jewish and grew up in Ukraine, has been among the most outspoken opponents of Palestinian activists, describing the protesters as “terrorists” while accusing them of making Jewish students feel unsafe.
Nerdeen Kiswani, a Palestinian activist and CUNY law school graduate, said the lawmaker’s actions were an extension of citywide rhetoric that dehumanizes Palestinian concerns and stifles dissent.
“She falsely accuses us of being antisemitic then shows up to a rally brandishing a gun,” Kiswana added. “Who is really making us unsafe?”
Vernikov will have to return to court at a later date.