Five Miles of Lights and Seven Arrests At Rock Center Tree Lighting Ceremony

A long stretched out ceremony and added police security kept many of the people who turned out to watch the tree lighting ceremony of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree from getting a good view of the action, although it did not seem to dampen spirits too much on a bitterly cold evening.

Seven pro-Palestinian protestors were arrested. Police blocked them from reaching the main ceremony. The protestors were corralled in front of the News Corp. building on Sixth Ave. which houses Fox News and the New York Post.

While the ceremony was not disrupted, the threat of protests did cause the police to erect elaborate security fencing.

”It’s a little disorganized,” commented a woman named Kristen who was walking up Fifth Ave. with her mom Lorriane.

As people reached the plaza on the Fifth Ave. side of the tree–where many usually stood to get good photos of the white light angels and the 80 ft tall tree–this year the NYPD was not allowing anyone to stand still there.

A loudspeaker on repeat loop kept blaring, “Ladies and Gentlemen, you cannot stand here! Please keep moving!”

That of course created a human traffic jam on the sidewalk. As some people were moving south, a few were still trying to push against the crowd by going north, but were barred by police.

In a bygone era, the tree lighting ceremony was a half hour affair and was over by 8 p.m. But now it is a two long special on NBC that was hosted by Kelly Clarkson. Unfortunately, unless you were home watching, you could not see any of the entertainment.

When one police officer was asked what time the tree lighting was to take place the officer responded, “either 7 p.m. or 9:30.” It was about seven minutes after seven at the time. “Well I guess that is not happening,” she said.

One frozen photographer was corralled in press pen on W. 47th had been there since around 6 p.m. and was trying to keep warm.

”If they don’t light by 9:30 I’m getting outta here,” he said.

The tree did not actually light until 10 p.m. as NBC was wrapping up its two hour special that featured Clarkson and Today co-anchors Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Craig Melvin.

Everyone from the Radio City Rockettes to Keke Palmer, Cher, and Katharine McPhee, provided the entertainment that was largely invisible to throngs who turned out live for the festivities.

One young couple did not seem to mind the crush of humanity as they made their way up Fifth Ave. “We’re from Germany, we arrived yesterday,” said Matthias. And his girlfriend Inga chimed in she loved all the holiday lights. “It’s just like the movies,” she said.

For those who did not brave the initial crush on Nov. 29 the tree this year–which is an 85 year old Norway spruce that weighs 12 tons and featurs over 50,000 twinkling LED lights–will be up until Jan. 14. When it’s finally taken down, the wood will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

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