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Security increased in some US cities amid former Hamas leader’s call for protests

By Rob Frehse and Jay Croft, CNN

(CNN) — Security is being increased in some US cities Friday after a former Hamas leader called for protests amid the escalating war between Israel and Hamas militants, though officials in several cities said they have found no credible threats.

Rallies are expected across the country, some in support of Israel and some in support of Palestinians, following last weekend’s unprecedented attack on Israel by Hamas and Israel’s declaration of war.

The security concerns come as former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal released a video message encouraging the Muslim world to “show anger” on Friday, though there was no specific call for violence.

The messaging in the video is consistent with former Hamas messages calling for demonstrations and the mobilization of the Arab and Islamic world in solidarity.

“There is currently no intelligence showing any active threats in New York – that is, the entire state of New York,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a Thursday night news conference.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams echoed her comments.

“I want every New Yorker, especially Jewish New Yorkers and other groups, to know there are currently no credible or specific threats against our city. But with large scale protests scheduled … we must remain vigilant,” Adams said.

Still, the NYPD said it is taking steps to increase its presence in some areas.

“We are aware of the concern that postings circulating online have caused, and we have increased our uniform deployments at large gathering and cultural sites to ensure public safety out of an abundance of caution,” the department said in a post on X Thursday night.

NYPD ordered all forces to show up in uniform regardless of rank and assignment as a precaution, according to an internal department memo obtained by CNN. The order was issued in case there’s a need to draw from units including the detective, narcotics, and intelligence bureaus for support for spontaneous events or demonstrations and marches.

NYC Council member arrested

A New York City Council member was arrested Friday morning on charges of criminal possession of a firearm after being photographed at a pro-Palestinian rally at Brooklyn College with a gun visible on her waist.

A spokesperson for the NYPD told CNN Inna Vernikov, a Republican council member who represents parts of Brooklyn, turned herself in at the 70th precinct and surrendered her black 9mm Smith & Wesson and gun license in the company of her attorney.

Police told CNN Vernikov eventually left the location of the rally and at “no point in time was anyone menaced or injured as a result of her possessing the firearm.”

Vernikov is Jewish and has been a vocal supporter of Israel. During the rally, Vernikov posted videos to X, saying, “If you’re here, standing today with these people, you’re nothing short of a terrorist without the bombs.”

CNN has reached out to Vernikov and the City Council for comment.

Elevated vigilance to deter violence

In Florida, Miami-Dade County partially activated its emergency operations center “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a statement from Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

“The safety of all our residents and visitors is our top priority and as we monitor the escalating situation in the Middle East, the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) has heightened levels of security throughout our community,” she said, noting there were no individual threats in the area.

The Miami-Dade Police Department will also increase its presence at schools, synagogues, mosques, Jewish Community Centers, and critical infrastructure within the county, according to the statement, which also encouraged residents to remain vigilant.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced Thursday it will work with local, state and federal agencies in response to the events in the Middle East and said mental health professionals were available to support students and families.

On the West Coast, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a post on X it has “no information of any specific or credible threats,” but is “continuing to assess the situation for any local impact.”

“We are conducting extra patrol checks and reaching out to our local religious communities to reassure them during this tumultuous time,” the department said.

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CNN’s Paradise Afshar, John Miller, Shimon Prokupecz and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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