New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sent police to Brooklyn on Tuesday to disperse a massive crowd that had gathered for a rabbi’s funeral in defiance of a statewide shutdown over the coronavirus.
The mayor sent a series of tweets scolding the crowd, messages that themselves generated widespread backlash from many who felt they unfairly singled out the city’s Jewish community.
There were no summonses or arrests of those mourning Rabbi Chaim Mertz, according to a police spokesman.
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Photos and video showed streets packed with mourners, which the mayor said was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“What I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus,” he said, noting that he went himself to ensure that the mass dispersed.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
De Blasio said he understood the instinct to mourn after months of remaining indoors.
“But large gatherings will only lead to more deaths + more families in mourning,” he added. “We will not allow this. I have instructed the NYPD to have one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance.”
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However, De Blasio was widely criticized on Twitter for what some saw as using the actions of a relatively small number of people to generalize against the Jewish community as a whole.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the mayor’s comments were “outrageous, especially when so many are scapegoating Jews.”
Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC. The few who don’t social distance should be called out — but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews. This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever. https://t.co/jcYO9QQred
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) April 29, 2020
Mr. Mayor, the vast majority of the Jewish community is following the guidelines. You can find us donating blood, raising money to support our neighbors, and in emergency rooms providing critical care. We deserve better from our leaders than generalizations and fingerpointing. https://t.co/IbFkEgfYSu
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) April 29, 2020