Quick brief: 1 February 2023: Border crosser standoff/protest at NYC’s Watson Hotel ends with a sweep by NYPD’s Strategic Response Group

06 February, 2023 Insurance

(Muir Analytics’ Quick Brief is broadly based on the Pentagon EXSUM briefing method. The aim is to quickly explain an evolving hotel threat issue in about 15 lines in executive summary format. Muir has added a quick analysis of the issue that can help hotels mitigate certain risks.)

Chain of events

  1. On 29 January 2023, says the Gothamist, migrants who had illegally crossed the US southern border began a protest standoff – technically, trespassing – at the 3-star Watson Hotel in New York City.
  2. Some border crossers interviewed said they had come to the US looking for jobs, housing, and new lives.
  3. The border crossers, all single males, were initially housed in the Watson Hotel via a contract with the City of New York but were recently moved to a temporary shelter at Brooklyn’s Cruise Terminal to make room for a new crop of border crossers consisting of families – men, women, and children.
  4. Upon arrival at the Cruise Terminal, says the Daily News, the border crossers – 24 men in all – balked at what they perceived as “inhumane conditions” and returned to the Watson Hotel, demanding their rooms back.
  5. The Cruise Terminal, says the Gothamist, has 1,000 cots spaced out in an open area. New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, says the facility has nutritious food and recreational amenities such as ping pong tables, showers, and bathrooms.
  6. The Watson Hotel declined to give rooms to the former guests since they were reserved for incoming border crossing families.
  7. The single male border crossers refused to leave the Watson’s sidewalk and set up a protest camp.
  8. They received assistance from political activists, namely NYC ICE Watch and South Bronx Mutual Aid, in the form of blankets, tents, food, and protest support – counseling, protest signs, speeches, and the like.
  9. The hotel called the police when the activists tried to access the hotel, presumably to stage a protest inside, something these groups denied.
  10. The Express reports one minor act of violence occurred during the standoff when some border crossers lashed out at an Al Arabiya TV crew.
  11. The Daily News says that on 1 February 2023, the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group (SRG) used picket line/sweep tactics and a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), informally known as a “sound cannon,” to clear the protesters from the hotel’s perimeter.
  12. The SRG is a special NYPD unit designed to respond to civil commotions, standoffs, violent protests, mass shootings, active shooters, terrorist attacks, and chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear/explosive (CBRNE) events.
  13. Because of the NYPD’s actions, most border crossers boarded buses for the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal facility, and six accepted bus tickets to other locations in the US, while others ran off to unknown locales.
  14. Mayoral spokesman Fabien Levy said the city was disappointed that activists “continued to encourage [the border crossers] to endanger their lives in these freezing temperatures and not accept shelter.”
  15. As of 6 February 2023, the Watson Hotel’s website said it had suspended operations until further notice.


There are four takeaways. First, in an age where civil unrest, riots, and protests are increasing exponentially, the border crosser standoff at the Watson Hotel is not surprising. The border crossers and their political activist allies believe they have the right to violate US immigration laws while seeking a better economic life in the US at higher standards than the countries they left. When those standards were not met, a protest/standoff was the predictable result.

Second, other than the scuffle with a news crew, there were no reported acts of violence at the protest, unlike past incidents where aggressive leftist organizations seized hotels using raid tactics, plus assault and battery. Those incidents were:

  1. 2021 raid by Oly Housing Now on the Red Lion Inn & Suites Olympia (aka, Governor Hotel) in Olympia, Washington.
  2. 2020 raid by Tacoma Housing Now on the Travelodge in Fife, Washington.

See more details and analysis on these attacks by Muir Analytics here. Still, the protesters and activists were trespassing and interrupting a lawful business, prompting a police response.

Third, the three hotel incidents mentioned above reflect a national trend in the US: Statistically, the radical left is overwhelmingly responsible for more US hotel violence and protest harassment than any other group in country. This does not mean right-wing radicals have not committed acts of violence at US hotels, and it does not mean they won’t commit acts of violence at US hotels in the future.

Finally, looking ahead, as illegal border crossings in the US continue to surge, where to house safely and effectively these personnel will continue to frustrate cities and towns with limited immigration facilities. As a result, city governments will continue to rely on hotels for housing. Friction at these hotels – protests, riots, assault and battery, and the like – will impact hotels financially and/or physically. This means law enforcement involvement and possible legal troubles/lawsuits.

It also means these hotels might lose their standard insurance coverage, says Business Insurance. This is because hotels that rent to standard lodgers have different risk profiles than those that take on refugees, asylum seekers, border crossers, and the homeless. The risk profile associated with the latter can, according to some hotel staffers, sometimes include excess wear and tear, and violence – things the underwriter did not originally intend to cover in a standard hotel policy. Hotels that take on such persons need to review their insurance policies with their brokers and even consult with their underwriters to see how their new clientele might impact their coverages.

Muir Analytics runs the world’s largest, most sophisticated hotel violence database – the SecureHotel Threat Portal – with over 2,400 hotel attacks (and growing.) We can provide the hospitality sector with intelligence that facilitates full-spectrum risk reduction, which helps hotels protect guests, staff, buildings, brands, and revenues. Contact us for a consultation:  1-833-DATA-444.

Sources and further reading:

NYPD removes migrants camped outside Midtown hotel after standoff about relocating to Brooklyn mega-shelter,” Daily News, 1 February 2023.

Migrant standoff turns ‘aggressive’ as $190-a-night hotel wins approval to become shelter,” Express, 1 February 2023.

Standoff outside Midtown hotel, where migrants refuse to go to ‘inhumane’ 1,000-bed shelter in Brooklyn,”Gothamist, 30 January 2023.

Emergency lodging trend alters hotel risks,” Business Insurance, 2 November 2022.

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