Hundreds of members of the Borough Park Orthodox community took to the streets Tuesday night, defying orders to disperse and lighting a fire in protest of new state-mandated restrictions imposed on area synagogues, schools and non-essential businesses over a COVID-19 surge.
One large crowd huddled closely together at the corner of 50th Street and 15th Avenue at about 9 p.m. as community activist Heshy Tischler ripped Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the order that shuts down schools completely and limits houses of worship to 10 people in certain COVID-19 hot spots.
Much of Borough Park is subject to those measures — the most restrictive — which also shutter non-essential businesses. The level of restrictions, broken down into three color-coded categories, is guided by coronavirus diagnosis data.
“It’s called civil disobedience, we can fight back,” Tischler told the crowd after tearing up his face mask. “Do not allow them to torture you or scare you,” he said, referring to the elected officials.
The closures must be made no later than Friday — though a spokesman for de Blasio tweeted that they would likely begin Thursday — and run for at least two weeks.
Councilman Kalman Yeger later showed up at another protest on 13th Avenue, according to Boro Park News.
There, the lawmaker told the crowd: “We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion.”
The protests swarmed in numbers later in the night, with demonstrators shutting down 13th Avenue to vehicular traffic.
Things also turned unruly when the crowd lit a rubbish fire after midnight at the intersection of 46th Street and 13th Avenue and chased away two city sheriff’s deputies who responded.
The defiant crowd chanted “Jewish lives matter” as they held their ground.
At about 1:30 a.m., FDNY firefighters and cops put out the flames, to the dismay of the protesters.