MANHATTAN — The NYPD arrested 26 people, including a 23-year-old accused of attacking a Jewish man, at a protest over the unrest in the Middle East Thursday in Times Square.
One of the victims spoke out on Friday as the NYPD searched for others involved in his attack. Joseph Borgen said he thought he was going to die when he found himself surrounded and outnumbered in the middle of Times Square. Cellphone video shows a group of men attacking Borgen, 29.
“I was holding my head bracing, trying to make it out alive,” he said. “They proceeded to assault me, kick me, beat me, hit me with flag poles.”
Borgen told PIX11 News he was in attendance at a protest to show support for Israel. Instead, he was ambushed and pepper sprayed.
“My whole face was on fire, more pain than anything else,” he added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was furious at the attack in a radio interview Friday.
“What happened last night is unacceptable; there is no place for anti-Semitism in New York City,” he said. “We will not tolerate it. My message is very clear: Anyone committing such an act is going to be arrested and prosecuted.”
The Times Square protest and violence came shortly after Thursday’s announcement of a cease-fire on the Gaza Strip. For almost two weeks, there has been fighting in the region leaving hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis dead.
Protesters on both sides in Times Square on Thursday evening took to the streets, provoked each other, and at one point threw fireworks or explosives from a truck in Midtown.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent in the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to help.
“I unequivocally condemn these brutal attacks on visibly Jewish New Yorkers and we will not tolerate anti-Semitic, violent gang harassment and intimidation,” Cuomo said.
In the meantime, Borgen said he remained overwhelmed and in shock about what happened to him.
“They were saying derogatory [things] — ‘filthy Jew, we’re going to kill you, dirty Jew,'” he recalled.
While his physical scars will heal, he only hopes for peace going forward.
“My message is everyone should just get along, no one wants to be involved in violent conflicts,” Borgen said. “I’ve lived in New York my entire life, a proud Jew my entire life and I have not had anything like this ever happen to me.”