New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated his highly controversial Tuesday night remarks about the Jewish community while giving a press briefing the following morning. Late in the evening Tuesday, the mayor took to social media to recount his day observing a large funeral gathering in Brooklyn. He followed up his anecdote with a broad stroke condemnation of the Jewish community and threat to use the NYPD to enforce social distancing guidelines.
"My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed," he said on Twitter. "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."
On Wednesday, de Blasio completely sidestepped the roaring condemnation of his words from the previous evening, but once he opened the briefing to questions from the press, he was forced to address the tweet. "Tragically, thousands" of Orthodox Jewish mourners caused him to share his condemnation of the funeral, he said, asserting that their choice to gather and mourn would cause more infections of the Wuhan coronavirus.
"I spoke last night out of passion," said de Blasio, saying he only regretted that people misunderstood his emotion. "I could not believe my eyes...this is a community I love...if you saw anger and frustration, you're right...people's lives were in danger before my eyes."
While the country clamors to return to normal life and freedom, de Blasio has only leaned harder into his absolute authoritarian view on forcing New Yorkers to remain in their home isolated from their friends and families. Along with NYC police commissioner Dermot Shea, de Blasio reaffirmed that police enforcement would be used to keep New Yorkers from gathering.
De Blasio briefly tried to reframe his comments as being meant for all communities, not just for Jewish New Yorkers but quickly reverted to support of his original comments.
"There will be no large gatherings of any kind anywhere," he said. Hizzoner then clarified that the had no observed such gatherings among any other ethnic group or community in New York.
"No, it's not happened in other places, lets' be honest," he said. "It's only happened in a few places ... it's not like people gathering in the park, it was thousands of people...we will not tolerate it ... what I saw I had not seen anywhere else."
After facing questions about his comments from several media outlets, an incensed de Blasio flatly refused to give a mea culpa for his anti-Semitic tone. "I'm not going to let that concern about words endanger lives," he said. "If I see it in other communities I'll call that out equally ... I have no regrets about calling out this danger specifically."
Prior to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, New York City has been at the center of concern over a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Though de Blasio claimed to be an ally of the Orthodox Jewish communities in the Big Apple, he has been a consistent target of criticism for being soft on anti-Jewish crime and shifting blame to President Trump.
"An atmosphere of hate has been developing in this country over the last few years," de Blasio said in December. "A lot of it is emanating from Washington and it's having an effect on all of us."
The break-neck pivot from condemning large gatherings to blaming New York's Jewish community as a monolith of rule-breakers is what is truly disturbing.— Ellie Bufkin (@ellie_bufkin) April 29, 2020
I don't believe hizzoner is truly anti-Semitic but he needs to fix this ASAP or yield his mayoral authority. pic.twitter.com/FX7nplLJAU
In addition to taking fire for his comments targeting Orthodox Jews and condemning them for freely mourning members of their family and community, there is also evidence that the Mayor's office had initially approved the event.
This Funeral was originally approved and actually organized by @NYPDnews 2 hours b4 it started, PD brought trucks with barriers/tower lights to close off Bedford Avenue and the surrounding area. It's the @NYCMayor’s Dept who originally approved it before deciding to take it back. https://t.co/i1EtGvCkKO— Satmar Headquarters (@HQSatmar) April 29, 2020
The mayor was asked about the prior approval and confusion but he provided no context, avoiding the question altogether. De Blasio then chided the press for seemingly not remembering that he had advocated for bans on religious gatherings of all kinds. To his point, since the beginning of the pandemic press briefings from the mayor's office, de Blasio has consistently criticized all religious gatherings, including those in people's private living room. He went as far as threatening permanent closures of churches and synagogues that violated the worship ban.
"What's so frustrating to me is that after all those messages were so clear, that so many people would still choose together," the mayor said, again refusing an apology through increasing frustration with the line of questioning.
"I make no apology," de Blasio said. "The next gathering will be met with summons and arrests. Period."
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