WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn — After coming under fire for tweets about a large Jewish funeral gathering in Williamsburg Tuesday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio apologized Wednesday if his “tough love” offended, but doesn’t regret calling out the dangers of such gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Video showed hundreds from Brooklyn’s Hasidic community filling the streets, many wearing masks, after a funeral for a local rabbi. Police officers and vehicles could be seen trying to disperse the crowd.
The NYPD said Tuesday night that no arrests were made. Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a joint press conference with the mayor Wednesday morning that 12 summons were issued. “What happened last night simply cannot happen,” Shea warned.
The mayor doubled down saying any future large gatherings will be met with arrests.
After heading to Brooklyn to see the situation for himself Tuesday, de Blasio condemned the gathering in a series of tweets later that night.
“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.
“We have lost so many these last two months and I understand the instinct to gather to mourn. But large gatherings will only lead to more deaths and more families in mourning. We will not allow this. I have instructed the NYPD to have one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance.”
The tweets ignited a firestorm of criticism from city leaders and more on social media.
“Did the mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant?” Brooklyn Councilman Chaim Deutsch tweeted.
This has to be a joke. Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant?? Has he been to a park lately? (What am I saying – of course he has!) https://t.co/LYKnUZm2Mc
— Councilman Deutsch (@ChaimDeutsch) April 29, 2020
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, responded on Twitter saying, “Generalizing against the whole population is outrageous…This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever.”
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
Many noted the mayor’s tweets came hours after a military flyover Tuesday afternoon in NYC brought large crowds out to watch, many not adhering to socially distancing practices.
At his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, the mayor said his tweets were him speaking “out of passion,” and that seeing the situation was “deeply, deeply distressing.”
While de Blasio apologized and said he regrets if the way he said it was offensive to anyone, but does not regret calling out the danger of the situation.