New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said his controversial tweet blasting the “Jewish community” for violating coronavirus guidelines on Tuesday night was a justified form of “tough love,” claiming that such gatherings had "not happened in other places."
The mayor sparked criticism for the tweet addressing "the Jewish community" as a whole after a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish funeral was held in Brooklyn and had to be dispersed by the police.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: The time for warnings has passed,” the mayor wrote. “I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summon or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping the disease and saving lives. Period.”
Jewish organizations and activists condemned the mayor’s statement on Tuesday night, while accusing him of having “double standards.” Some also responded to his remarks by tweeting pictures of crowds gathering in Central Park and elsewhere earlier that day for a flyover by navy and airforce planes.
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After being asked about the statement by a reporter during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday morning, de Blasio offered an apology “if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way.” However, he largely justified his statement, adding that Tuesday night’s scene in Brooklyn has “not happened in other places, let’s be honest.”
“I understand politicians, everyone who said this is like people gathering in the park,” he said. “No, it’s not like people gathering in the park, it was thousands of people. Can we just have an honest conversation? It was not acceptable, we will not tolerate it.”
While the mayor made clear he will also “not tolerate any anti-Semitism,” he also stated that his intent was “to be clear that what I saw I had not seen anywhere else and I was trying to be honest about the fact that this is a problem that people have to come to grips with and deal with.”
“I understand the power of words obviously, but I am not going to let that power, that concern about words, overcome the value of human life,” he continued. “We’re here to protect human beings and people were put in danger last night: Members of the Jewish community, they were putting each other in danger; they were putting police officers in danger.”
De Blasio added that if he saw comparable gatherings happen in other communities he would “call them out equally.”
Organizers of the funeral at the Tola’as Yaakov synagogue, which was led by Rabbi Mertz, issued a statement saying that it “hurt that [the funeral procession] led to singling out the Jewish community, and for that we apologize to all Jewish people.”