‘I couldn’t believe my eyes’: De Blasio defends ‘tough love’ after breaking up Jewish funeral crowd
Thousands of Orthodox Jewish mourners crowded a Brooklyn street Tuesday, April 28, 2020, flouting the city’s social distancing rules to mourn a rabbi who died of coronavirus.(@menasheshapiro / Twitter)
Mayor de Blasio Wednesday strongly defended his decision to break up a Jewish funeral, calling it an act of “tough love” to the Orthodox mourners standing shoulder-to-shoulder on Brooklyn streets during the coronavirus crisis.
“The amount of danger from that gathering is inestimable,” de Blasio said. “People will die because of it, unfortunately."
“I am saying unapologetically that this cannot happen,” he added. “It was said with love, with tough love.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea strongly backed Hizzoner, saying to the mourners: “You are putting my cops at risk.”
“We won’t allow it,” Shea said firmly.
De Blasio and Shea were responding to a storm of criticism from Jewish leaders after the mayor personally led a police effort to break up the Hasidic funeral in Williamsburg on Tuesday evening.
A crowd estimated at “several thousand people” thronged the streets to mourn the death of a prominent rabbi in defiance of social-distancing rules designed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, Shea said.
Police issued 12 summonses to mourners for various offenses like disorderly conduct.
De Blasio drew instant criticism from Orthodox Jewish leaders, some of whom pointed out that other gatherings in city parks and Tuesday’s flyover of military jets have not been broken up.
“The mayor of this big city rushed to the “scene” and also sent tweets singling out all 1.1 million Jews,” wrote the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, an umbrella group.
The Anti-Defamation League also slammed de Blasio in a bluntly worded “Hey @NYCMayor” tweet.
“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,” ADL executive director Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Twitter.
De Blasio and Shea strongly disputed the assertion that the city is singling out Jews for enforcement of social distancing rules.
Shea emotionally brought up the NYPD officers who have died from coronavirus. He noted that funerals for the lost cops were limited to a handful of mourners, instead of the tens of thousands of mourners who would normally show their respects to fallen comrades.
Hizzoner told reporters that there is no comparison between families gathering in small groups in parks and a planned mass gathering like the funeral.
After several weeks of coping with the pandemic, de Blasio said he was stunned to see the brazen defiance at the funeral in Williamsburg.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” de Blasio said. “We are in a pandemic.”