Members of the Orthodox Jewish community surround a rubbish fire in the street, – Joe Marino/New York Post
Angry protests erupted in Brooklyn as hundreds of members of the local orthodox Jewish community took to the streets to demonstrate against strict coronavirus restrictions imposed by New York’s state governor, Andrew Cuomo.
At least one person was injured in chaotic scenes in the Borough Park neighbourhood in which Hasidic men, mainly without masks, started fires as the protests intensified around midnight.
Chanting “Jewish lives matter”, the crowd chased away two sheriffs deputies. Shouting “snitch”, the mob turned on a Hasidic man who was suspected of disloyalty; he was treated overnight at a nearby hospital,
A photographer was also knocked to the ground.
People walk along a street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park – Spencer Platt/Getty Images
One ringleader picked up a bullhorn and shouted: “You are my soldiers, we are at war.”
The anger was fuelled by Mr Cuomo’s decision to include houses of worship in the latest restrictions as he tried to crack down on large numbers of people gathering in one place in areas where the virus was spiking.
“This is about mass gatherings,” he said. “And one of the prime places of mass gatherings are houses of worship.”
Borough Park, where the protests erupted has been designated as being part of the “red zone”, where the tightest restrictions are in place with a maximum of 10 worshippers – or 10 per cent of the establishment’s capacity – permitted.
Schools have also been closed, intensifying problems in a community where many households do not have internet access required for remote learning.
New York’s Hasidic community has been hit hard by the virus which claimed the lives of a number of religious leaders earlier this year.
Under the new rules, which will be in force for 14 days, sponsors of illegal mass gatherings face a $15,000 (£11,619).
Tensions were exacerbated by the plans initially being announced by New York mayor, Bill de Blasio on the second day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot when many families would have been eschewing internet access.
In a statement, four local Orthodox politicians condemned Mr Cuomo’s crackdown. “He has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable shutdown of our communities.”
Similar disquiet was voiced by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which encompasses 1.5 million followers and 210 churches in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn described the curbs as “outrageous”.
He added: “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. “