Pro-Palestinian protesters force American Museum of Natural History to barricade its doors

Protesters of the Israel and Palestine war hold up a sign a few minutes after the Christmas tree lights are turned on for the first time in 2023 at the 91st annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Center in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A group of about 200 pro-Palestinian protesters flooded Times Square and other parts of New York City on Saturday after police blocked the crowd from entering the American Museum of Natural History, citing several recent disturbances involving the same group.

The rally began around 2 p.m. EST on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, according to local news reports.

Before Saturday, the protest organizer, Within Our Lifetime, told its 143,000 Instagram followers to arrive at the museum in "small groups" and to come draped in Palestinian flags and apparel.

Museum officials, however, locked the doors and barricaded the points of entry for a second time after the crowd attempted to get inside a week ago, forcing the facility to batten down out of fear for its valued artifacts.

The protesters claim Israel was openly committing war crimes in Gaza during its war with Hamas, and have been heard chanting "Palestine will be free."

Meanwhile, at a McDonald's restaurant in Times Square, a store employee pepper sprayed several demonstrators Saturday night around 6 p.m. as they tried to enter the door.

Last week, another protest sponsored by WOL attempted to disrupt the annual tree lighting in Rockefeller Center but the NYPD police moved in before they had a chance.

And weeks ago, the same group was accused of vandalizing the New York Public Library after someone broke a set of glass doors before a perpetrator spray painted graffiti throughout the facility.