Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters blocked from disrupting Met Gala

<span>A man is detained by law enforcement as pro-Palestinian demonstrators attend a protest near the Met Gala, in New York City, Monday evening.</span><span>Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters</span>
A man is detained by law enforcement as pro-Palestinian demonstrators attend a protest near the Met Gala, in New York City, Monday evening.Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters came within a block of disrupting celebrity fashion’s biggest night out – the Met Gala – on Monday evening in a dramatic conjunction of forces that was separated only by New York police and metal barricades.

Some protesters, chanting “Rafah!, Gaza!”, said it was their intention to crash the gala. Others said they didn’t know about it. At times, a roughly equal number of police were guiding the winding protest through New York’s Upper East Side as they were preventing fashion fans from getting a glimpse of their favorite celebrities.

A third group, residents of the wealthy area, dog-walkers and doormen, said they were surprised but not shocked by the collision of passions.

“I would say that in the past five years, it’s gone nuts,” said one doorman in uptown Manhattan, referring to the scene outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the Costume Institute fundraiser is held. “Now they’re closing off the streets, and people are coming dressed up to watch.”

Four onlookers outside The Mark Hotel, ground zero for celebrities and their entourages primping and preening for their red-carpet entrance, said they were happy to see anyone really, so long as they were famous and in fashion, but mostly they wanted to see Zendaya, Beyoncé and Blake Lively.

“Seeing the effort, the style, and the beauty of everything,” said one. “The luxury!” said another. A third said: “The really humble ones who are nice, but not the snarky ones we don’t really like.”

Naya Purnsley said she was more into art than fashion, but the Met Gala was a fusion of both.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in floral,” she said, observing close-by gala-goers on her phone.

Sara Vaquero, a visitor from Spain, said the Met Gala – which last year raised $22m in ticketing fees from brands and sponsors – said the event was now “popular all over the world”. Amanda Aussieker, a New Yorker, said she’d come with a hope of catching a glimpse of star in an outfit she said was “inside out”.

Aussieker said the gala’s title, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, was to her spiritual in nature, prompted her to show up “in a robe and slippers with a gown underneath”. Outside the Carlyle, where truckers of flowers had been rolling since the morning, fashion crowds almost intersected with protesters.

A woman who identified herself a stylist assistant had been dressing a male client for the gala in a suite. It had been 10 days of intense work. Another who did not wish to be identified said stylists were making good money from the gala because the luxury brands were paying them to get their wares on the celebrities, but the celebrities didn’t necessarily pay them at all.

At Hunter College roughly 10 blocks away on 68th street, where the night’s protest started, a couple of protest supporters said it was highly unlikely that they would get near the gala.

“The NYPD won’t let them anywhere near the celebrities,” said a woman called Paris. “Historically, there’s often a protest outside the Met Gala. But they get destroyed.”

Earlier on Monday, union workers from Condé Nast, the parent company of Met Gala organizer Vogue magazine, said they had reached a tentative agreement with the company for improved pay and conditions. The agreement prompted the union to call off a planned disruption at the gala. Some members of the union, however, turned up to support members of the Model Alliance, a group seeking improved contracts for models and fashion workers.

In recent years, the Met Gala has been gaining a reputation for conflict. Separate from Vogue magazine’s previous union disagreement, this year’s lead corporate sponsor is TikTok – which the Biden administration is now attempting to ban. In 2022, just as Kim Kardashian and then-boyfriend Pete Davidson were walking the red carpet, the news dropped that the supreme court would overturn the federal right to abortion.

Still, on the red carpet and away from the clatter of NYPD helicopters, all appeared to be serene as celebrities discussed their looks and inspiration. Singer Lana Del Rey showed up in an Alexander McQueen dress that made her look like a wood nymph while Zendaya walked the carpet not once, but twice – in two different yet show-stopping looks.

Lieba Nesis, a society writer who’d worked the red carpet on previous years, said the chance of protesters getting near the gala were zero. There was, she said, a brutal reality at play.

“The protesters don’t have 10m followers on Twitter and 50m on Instagram and teams of assistants following them around that have been preparing for this for the past year,” she said. “The city makes millions from the publicity of gala, the hotels are full. It puts New York on the map. This is the Academy Awards but bigger.”