Hundreds of members of the Orthodox Jewish community in several Brooklyn neighborhoods took to the streets overnight on Tuesday to protest New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's new coronavirus restrictions. At a large protest in Borough Park, a crowd started a fire in the street after midnight, burning masks and chanting, "Jewish lives matter."
nine New York City neighborhoods to return to lockdown in an attempt to address recent localized spikes in COVID-19 cases, also putting more than a dozen other zones under slightly looser restrictions. The highest restrictions include closing hundreds of schools and all nonessential businesses, banning mass gatherings, limiting restaurants to take out and limiting gatherings at places of worship to ten people.
Today we establish clear limits for areas where we see high positivity: The Cluster Action Initiative.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) October 6, 2020
Locations will be categorized either Red, Orange, or Yellow, based on proximity to the cluster.
The severity of the problem will determine the response. pic.twitter.com/707FYGHB0g
All nine neighborhoods include a large Orthodox Jewish population — and the lockdown announcement falls in the middle of the holiday Sukkot.
"I have been very close to the Orthodox community for many years. I understand the imposition this is going to place on them," Cuomo said during a press conference. "And I asked for them to work with me to follow these guidelines and that was positively received."
But a large protest erupted Tuesday night in Borough Park, where hundreds of people gathered, many not wearing masks. Videos on
show the crowd starting a bonfire in the middle of the street to burn masks.
Jewish men and boys in Brooklyn start a fire in the street to protest COVID-19 restrictions. https://t.co/ez6N9RTEXC— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) October 7, 2020
Some protesters chanted, "Jewish lives matter," while others chanted, "Donald Trump." Resident Heshy Tischler https://www.instagram.com/p/CGB7OPilSXC/ the crowd, saying that there would be "peaceful protests" every day. "You are my soldiers! We are at war!" He said.
The NYPD made no arrests, but at least
was apparently assaulted and injured during the protest, reportedly for calling on the community to wear masks.
This is a Hasidic counter-protestor who called out people in his community today for protesting wearing masks.— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) October 7, 2020
He was beaten with rocks and is now in critical condition.
The group was led and instigated by @JustEnoughHeshy (who called them his "soldiers") and @KalmanYeger. pic.twitter.com/3Men26htez
show protesters calling the man a "snitch."
Here is some video of the attack. You can hear someone yelling, "Snitch!"— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) October 7, 2020
In case you are unaware, for some in the community, the label is (at least in theory and in religious law) punishable by death. pic.twitter.com/StIHSyjQiZ
Some in the community condemned Tischler on Twitter and called on the NYPD to arrest the attackers. Mayor Bill De Blasio said during a
Wednesday that he is aware of the incident, adding that there will be "consequences" for people who commit acts of assault.
We’re at City Hall with the latest updates. https://t.co/HrSsA2HI83— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) October 7, 2020
"It's crucial that those who disagree still respect the fact that the state and city have made this decision for the health and safety of all," de Blasio said. "People have and will protest and we understand there is a place for peaceful protest, but the NYPD will not tolerate people doing harm to others, there will be no tolerance for assaults, for damage to property, for setting fires, anything like that is unacceptable."
The New York City Sheriff's Office
Wednesday afternoon, stating that firefighters were initially unable to put out the fire due to the large crowd and requested to leave the scene because they felt unsafe. Officials also said that deputy sheriffs saw a person being harassed, took them into protective custody in their vehicle and drove them away from the scene.
Sheriff's Office Statement concerning the events in Borough Park, Brooklyn early this morning. pic.twitter.com/oWIvvBenrB— NYC SHERIFF (@NYCSHERIFF) October 7, 2020
Officials said the deputies displayed "incredible restraint and professionalism" amid the chaos. On Twitter, many complained they were too relaxed and should have done more to end the protest, including making arrests.
Local Hasidic leaders slammed Cuomo in
"Though we are the representatives of 'hotspot' neighborhoods, we have been disincluded from conversations with the governor and his leadership team as they made devastating decisions affecting the people we serve," wrote Senator Simcha Felder, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, Councilman Chaim Deutsch & Councilman Kalman Yeger.
The letter claimed Cuomo told them synagogues would be able to operate at 50% capacity, just hours before limiting gatherings at houses of worship to no more than 10 people, regardless of a building's
Real life example: some shuls are 50,000+ square feet. Others are 500 square feet. How does it make sense to have max of 10 people in each? Plus: a minyan is 10. You need at least 11 in case someone needs restroom during prayers. https://t.co/AiZwo1jM9q— David G. Greenfield (@NYCGreenfield) October 7, 2020
"This is about mass gatherings. And one of the prime places of mass gatherings are houses of worship," Cuomo said during a news conference on Tuesday. "I understand it's a sensitive topic but that is the truth, period."
During his press briefing, Cuomo shared images specifically highlighting gatherings by the Orthodox Jewish community. One of the photos was apparently from 2006 — Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi
that it was a staff error, saying that the photo was replaced during the briefing.
This was a staff error that was caught in real time at the presser. It was swapped out with this photo that was taken two weeks ago at the same location. The new slide was up during the last 10 minutes of the press conference. https://t.co/tu1hcEU4dx pic.twitter.com/1wsL7HEVPn— Rich Azzopardi (@RichAzzopardi) October 5, 2020
"Governor Cuomo's choice to single out a particular religious group, complete with a slideshow of photos to highlight his point, was outrageous," they wrote. "His language was dangerous and divisive, and left the implication that Orthodox Jews alone are responsible for rising COVID cases in New York State."
Catholic protesters also gathered earlier in the day in several Brooklyn neighborhoods to protest the local lockdowns, CBS New York reports.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn called the new rules "outrageous" in a statement.
"We fervently object to being told to further reduce capacity, because we have strictly adhered to COVID-19 protocols, and the safety measures have been working," he wrote. "The safety of parishioners is paramount for the Diocese of Brooklyn, but the religious freedom of our parishioners is being unjustly attacked."
"It is outrageous that after incurring great expense to implement all the safety protocols, our parishes are being forced to reduce capacity to a maximum of 10 people in the red zone and 25 people in the orange zone," he added. "To think that some of our churches have the capacity to hold a thousand people for Mass, a capacity range of 10 to 25 people is disrespectful to Catholics and to the clergy who all have followed the rules and, as such, have prevented a spike in COVID cases within the confines of the hot zones."