Upper West Side residents report thousands of death threats in fight against viral contagion

Screenshots from the Instagram video

Two Upper West Side residents featured in a video circulating on social media have been the subject of intense criticism since it was posted earlier this month. Following the video's release, residents tell us they have even received thousands of death threats.

The video shows Ronit Pinto and Sam Long fighting with two young women who were taking down Israeli hostage planes at the corner of 75th Street and Broadway on Sunday, June 16. While Pinto and Long claim the unidentified young women instigated the altercation, they admit they reacted inappropriately.

Pinto is the founder of Honeysuckle Magazine, a progressive social justice publication that has long supported the cannabis industry. Her husband, Long, is the creative director.

Numerous posts on Instagram, X and other platforms pointed to Pinto and Long, as the two individuals are seen in the roughly 25-second video violently fighting with three women who tore down the flyers. The women were wearing keffiyeh, a Middle Eastern-style headscarf that covered most of their faces, and one of them had a Palestinian flag attached to it. At one point, Pinto is seen kicking one of the women who was sitting awkwardly on the sidewalk after Long dragged her to the ground.

(The video was also shared on YouTube.)

Commentators have portrayed the nighttime confrontation as a politically motivated fight resulting from the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, but Long told ILTUWS he was only trying to protect his photography equipment after one of the women grabbed and smashed one of the cameras he was carrying.

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Pinto said she was half-Israelite and had lived in Israel. Long said he was not Jewish.

A mention of the brawl on Honeysuckle's Wikipedia page identifies the women who tore down the flyers as students at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but ILTUWS was unable to verify this, and Pinto claims critics have edited the page without her knowledge since the altercation.

The NYPD confirmed that it is investigating the incident and that no arrests have been made so far. Police said officers responded to a report of an assault on June 16 at around 9:30 p.m. outside 2135 Broadway (at 75th Street). The police report states that two women, ages 21 and 23, told officers they had been involved in a “verbal argument” with people they described as a man and a woman who they believed to be around 40 years old. They told police that the unidentified woman kicked one of the younger women and that the unidentified man broke the other young woman's cell phone. Both women refused medical treatment, police said.

The next day, June 17, Long went to the 20th Precinct to report the incident himself. According to the NYPD, Long claims he was taking photos at the location when an unidentified masked woman “grabbed his camera and broke it.”

The commotion began around 9 p.m. as Pinto was walking home from a ballet class in Midtown. She arrived at the scene and saw several women tearing down the “hijacked” fliers while neighbors and passersby urged them to stop, she said.

“They had the whole block agitated. People were begging them to stop,” Pinto said. “It really got people worked up.”

She said the women called the leaflets Israeli propaganda. Pinto engaged in heated arguments with some of the women and took videos of them on her cellphone. She said she then called Long to tell him what was going on.

Long, a photographer, arrived at the scene minutes later with several cameras, we were told. He told ILTUWS he asked the women if he could take their photos and they said yes. Pinto left but later returned.

At first, he said, the women seemed OK with being photographed and even posed. At one point, one turned to the camera and made an inverted triangle gesture, Long said. The inverted red triangle has been used as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, although the Anti-Defamation League says that “in certain cases [it] can mean support for violent Palestinian resistance against Israel.”

Hostage Taking Poster Fight 75th Broadway

Sam Long

While they initially showed no desire for confrontation, Long and Pinto claimed they soon became angry and aggressive.

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“One of them grabbed his camera, threw it on the ground and smashed it,” Pinto said.

From then on, Long and Pinto said, the fight was about Long's remaining camera equipment.

In the video, taken by an unidentified bystander, Long is seen struggling with a woman, grabbing and dragging her keffiyeh as she falls to the ground. Then another woman approaches them and Long begins to aggressively wrestle with her, dragging her several feet down the sidewalk and dragging her to the ground, where he continues to wrestle with her. He said he tried to prevent her from getting to his cameras. At that moment, Pinto reappears and begins kicking the woman, who is half-sitting, half-lying on the ground. The first woman Long had been wrestling with had also rushed to help the second woman and was part of the brawl.

“Someone was packing up his things. That's what triggered his reaction, not that it was justified or right,” Pinto said of Long. “It wasn't about the signs or anything. They definitely attacked him first.”

“Honestly, this is obviously deplorable behavior and I do not condone it in any way,” Long said of his behavior. “I lost my composure. I should have walked away. It was total chaos.”

Pinto admits that she also did not react well to the kick against the woman on the sidewalk.

“I reacted. Obviously it wasn't the best reaction, but I was scared to put my hands in there,” Pinto said. “I came back when they were already on the ground. I thought she had our camera. My first thought was that she was going to break our equipment. I reacted. It was a fight-or-flight situation. It was heated and scary. I didn't know what else to do. I thought she was going to break our equipment.”

The magazine's editors said they have been harassed and threatened since the incident.

“We have received several threats of violence. 'I'm going to kill you.' 'Be careful,'” Pinto said.

Some social media posts included Long's phone number and email next to the video. That number has since been deactivated. The couple has also deactivated their social media accounts.

“We received thousands of death threats,” Long said. “This mob used every digital portal they could to reach us. My phone rang 24 hours a day.”

Although they were labeled Zionists on social media, Long said that was not true. “I am not a Zionist. I am not a Jew. I am left of center politically,” he said. “This was not ideologically, racially or religiously motivated at all. It had nothing to do with who these people were.”

Following the incident, the couple released an official statement on their now private Instagram page.

Ronit long statement

As the fallout from the incident became clear, at least two organizations severed ties with Honeysuckle. Cannabiziac, a cannabis industry advocacy group, removed Pinto from its advisory board, according to Wikipedia. Meanwhile, The Travel Agency, a cannabis store with multiple locations in NYC, announced it was ending its association with the magazine, as reported by Where Is The Buzz – which released the following statement.

“The travel agency is appalled by the recent acts of violence against the founders of Honeysuckle Magazine. In line with our zero-tolerance policy towards violence and our commitment to creating a safe and inclusive community for our employees and customers, we have made the decision to immediately sever all ties with Honeysuckle Magazine and the individuals involved in this heinous incident.”

We will provide updates if and when we learn more.


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