Journalist says Brooklyn protesters assaulted him; no arrests

For the second night in a row, hundreds of members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Borough Park took to the streets to protest new restrictions taking effect Thursday to battle the uptick in coronavirus cases.

No arrests were made overnight, said police, despite refusals to disperse and reports of violence.

Reporter Jacob Kornbluh, an Orthodox Jew, took to Twitter to say he was viciously assaulted.

"I was just brutally assaulted, hit in the head, and kicked at by an angry crowd of hundreds of community members of the Boro Park protest — while yelling at me 'Nazi' and 'Hitler' — after Heshy Tischler recognized me and ordered the crowd to chase me down the street," Kornbluh tweeted. 

Tischler, a right-wing candidate for City Council, could be seen leading on a crowd. But Tischler told FOX 5 NY's Linda Schmidt that no one hurt Kornbluh and no one threatened him, despite the video.

Some giant flags proclaiming support for President Donald Trump could also be seen in the crowd.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new restrictions are aimed at schools, businesses and houses of worship in some parts of the city and state.  

“I understand you need to wear a mask. I understand you social distance. What bothers me is: You pick on the good people,” said Brooklyn resident Meir Nimni.

He argued that Orthodox Jewish gatherings were being singled out for a clampdown, noting that huge crowds convened this spring for racial injustice protests where destruction and violence sometimes broke out.

“Everybody here wants to live, and everybody cares” about stopping the virus, Nimni said. But he saw a double standard that’s “just not fair.”

Nearby, Renee Jeremias said authorities “have absolutely no right to shut us down.”

Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of an Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization called Agudath Israel of America, said the group was contemplating a court fight if the state wasn't open to changing a new 10-person limit for houses of worship in areas where new coronavirus cases are most concentrated.

The restriction comes amid the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Many large events this season have already been canceled or rearranged, Zwiebel said, but the 10-person cap "would basically wipe out the entirety of the spirit of the holiday.”

“We are now, you know, on the precipice of an enormous sense of despair," Zwiebel said.

Cuomo insists the new restrictions are based solely on science and coronavirus case clusters in areas that, in his view, have flouted the state’s existing virus-safety rules.

After becoming the nation’s deadliest coronavirus hot spot this spring, New York wrestled its outbreak down to a steady and relatively low level over the summer.

But infections have been rising in recent weeks, and hospitalizations are starting to follow. There has been an average of 659 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide over the past week, up from 426 for the week ending Sept 6, Cuomo said. During an early April peak, nearly 19,000 coronavirus patients were hospitalized statewide.

He said a few areas are disproportionately driving the worrisome trends, with over 5% of coronavirus tests coming back positive in 20 hot spot ZIP codes, compared with about 1.3% statewide.

In one Brooklyn ZIP code, 18% of everyone who has gotten a coronavirus test since Oct. 1 has tested positive, compared with a rate of about 3.9 percent citywide, according to city data.

The Democratic governor said wider “spread is inevitable" if the clusters don't get under control.

“There’s always opposition. And we move forward anyways. And we’ll continue to do that,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

The new rules, set to take effect Friday, involve parts of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, sections of Orange and Rockland counties in the Hudson Valley and an area within Binghamton, near the Pennsylvania border. Many of the areas are home to large enclaves of Orthodox Jews.

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