A large group of Orthodox Jews took to the streets in Brooklyn on Monday in celebration of Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Police attempted to intervene but were pushed out by revelers.
Following the event, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced what he referred to as a "cluster action initiative" — an attempt to target red zone hot spot areas such as Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange, and Rockland counties across the state.
Cuomo's announcement then prompted a second mass group to converge on the city's streets on Tuesday, and its members burned their masks in response.
Police attempt to break up wild Monday dance party — and fail
On Monday, police attempted to forcefully break up a large group of people celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot — which began last Friday and will end this Friday — in the Crown Heights neighborhood.
According to a Tuesday Newsweek report, members of the New York Police Department were ultimately unable to disperse the crowd. No arrests were made, and no citations were issued.
The Gothamist reported that the officers' actions only prompted "indifference and hostility from Orthodox revelers who continued dancing even in the face of police orders."
The outlet reported that "hundreds" of Jews gathered for the gathering.
"Video from the event shows police officers — including some from the NYPD's Community Affairs Unit — imploring the densely packed crowd to follow state law's intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19," the outlet reported. "'Please get onto the sidewalk,' an officer pleads. 'You will be allowed to dance on the sidewalk.'"
As seen in the video, the group apparently has no intention of following the officers' orders, and instead, begins dancing more frenetically while pushing back at the police.
Shortly afterward, the officers ended up leaving the scene.
Gov. Cuomo's initiative
On Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo addressed the issue of the large gatherings and announced his new initiative.
"I spoke to members of the Orthodox Jewish community today," Cuomo said. "I spoke to the leaders myself this morning. We had a very good conversation. ... I have been very close to the Orthodox community for many years. I understand the imposition this is going to place on them, and I said to them I need their cooperation. The Torah speaks about how certain religious obligations can be excused, if you are going to save a life. This is about saving a life."
Cuomo added, "No large gatherings in synagogues to save a life. You look at where the infection rate is, you look at those clusters, people will die in those clusters and this is about protecting people and saving lives."
In a statement in response to Cuomo's mandate, state Sen. Simcha Felder, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, and Councilmen Kalman Yeger and Chaim Deutsch slammed Cuomo, and accused him of engaging in a "duplicitous bait-and-switch."
"Outrageously, just hours later, Governor Cuomo announced a draconian return to restrictions that would shutter thousands of New York businesses and limit houses of worship to a maximum capacity of 10 (no matter the maximum capacity of the building)," the statement said.
"[Cuomo's] rhetoric in recent days has been irresponsible and pejorative, particularly to a community of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, for whom his language was reminiscent of past verbal attacks on Jewish communities," the statement added. "Governor Cuomo's choice to single out a particular religious group, complete with a slideshow of photos to highlight this point, was outrageous."
The initiative, effectively, would close schools, limit attendance at synagogues, and close nonessential businesses in "red zone" areas.
You can read more about the initiative here.
What happened on Tuesday night?
As seen in several videos circulating on social media, a massive group appeared on the streets of Brooklyn Tuesday night to protest against Cuomo's new initiative.
Those members of the large group did not appear to be socially distanced, and many of them were not wearing any face coverings.
According to Newsweek, the New York Fire Department showed up at the scene of at least one Tuesday night demonstration to extinguish a pile of burning masks.
The outlet notes that a "line of people [appeared] to briefly try and block the firefighters' attempts to put out the blaze."
Haaretz on Wednesday reported that protesters in Borough Park were joined by radio host Heshy Tischler and City Council Representative Kalman Yeger. Both, according to the outlet, "encouraged the crowd to stand up for religious freedom."
"We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion," Yeger said. "I don't care who in government thinks that they can stop us, they're wrong. Let them try."
Tischler later visited Crown Heights, where he told protesters, "We have a court order, we won, our schools and shuls are open, we will not close. ... And here's the deal, I'm filing a new court order, I'm holding Cuomo and the idiot de Blasio in contempt. We will civil disobedience ... our amendments, our first amendments, our rights, we will not close our shuls Simchas Torah!"
Members of the crowd also chanted, "Jewish lives matter!" according to Haaretz.