For two long nights, the streets of Borough Park have been the scene of protests — demonstrations against a new COVID-19 lockdown. Those demonstrations have turned violent. One target Wednesday night was a journalist, Jacob Kornbluh, a reporter for Jewish Insider.
Video from the event shows Kornbluh being pushed against the wall. He said he was “brutally assaulted.” He spoke to NY1 Thursday morning.
“Once I was walking away, all I wanted to do was go home,” he told NY1. "I didn’t confront anyone. I didn’t respond to any attack, despite being, you know, kicked at and pulled and punched, the worst being called. I just want to get home.”
Kornbluh says a local community activist has been inciting the violence — the so-called activist denied that to our camera.
“There are videos all over that show he was never touched and two police officers escorted him out,” Harold “Heshy” Tischler said.
All day, officials slammed the violence in the neighborhood — online and in person.
“There needs to be visible accountability for the violence that took place last night and the night before,” Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander said. “That's how you know you can’t do it. When the people engage in it, they have consequences."
Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein pleaded with the community, begged for a stop to the violence. He said the community can continue to demand an ability to gather in prayer, but must do so peacefully.
The mayor weighed in, too.
“I saw the video of the attack on Jacob Kornbluh — absolutely unacceptable,” de Blasio said. "Disgusting, really.”
On Thursday, new rules go into effect in COVID-19 hot zones, like Borough Park, prohibiting mass gatherings. Only 10 people will be allowed at religious services.
The governor said it had to happen because the laws were not enforced.
“This is irrational, illogical, ugly, illegal conduct,” Governor Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "And it shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Not a single arrest was made during the protests Wednesday night.
According to guidelines released by the NYPD Thursday night, demonstrations and other “first amendment activities” are subject to gathering restrictions in the COVID zones, empowering the NYPD to break up protests in areas with a high number of COVID cases.
City Hall has said that if there are demonstrations tonight in COVID hot spots, including Borough Park, then people will be asked to disperse, potentially will be issued summonses, and detained for disorderly conduct in they refuse to do so.
“There were some issues yesterday, honestly, in terms of both the NYPD’s approach and the approach of the city’s legal team, understanding the state guidance and getting it right once and for all,” the mayor said Wednesday, before releasing the guidelines. "That has to be corrected."