NEW YORK — Heshy Tischler, a prominent leader of the Borough Park Orthodox protests against New York City's coronavirus restrictions was arrested late Sunday at his home on charges of inciting a riot.
The charge is connected to a violent attack against Orthodox journalist Jacob Kornbluh, a reporter for Jewish Insider who has been harassed, threatened and attacked by Tischler and his supporters for documenting and reporting on violations of COVID-19 social distancing measures in the Orthodox community. The journalist had to be rescued by police.
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Shortly after Tischler's arrest, dozens gathered outside Kornbluh's Brooklyn home, shouting slogans like "No Heshy, no peace." Police officers were physically blocking the entrance to the apartment building, as Tischler’s supporters could be heard saying they were “waiting” for the journalist.
Wednesday's attack on Kornbluh was roundly denounced, and arrests were expected after an investigation was launched. Corey Johnson, head of the New York City Council, said that "all those involved in this vile act must be held accountable.”
Tischler said on Friday he would turn himself in to the New York Police Department on Monday morning after receiving a phone call from police saying he would be arrested. In a video he posted on Twitter, he said, "I will be, of course, pleading not guilty."
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The local police never confirmed any reported agreement with Tischler over the terms of his arrest.
NYPD forces showed up at his home on Sunday instead, just after the end of the Shemini Atzeret holiday, and handcuffed him. In a video from the scene, Tischler can be heard shouting, "You see what they’re doing? You see what they’re doing, guys?" as he is being taken into one of the police cars at the scene.
After Tischler's announcement of his arrest, WhatsApp messages urging support for him began circulating among community members, asking them to show their "appreciation and gratitude to our beloved Heshy for all he has done for our community" by escorting him to the police precinct on Monday. "And make sure to have Trump flags," the message concluded.
Tischler’s messaging against the COVID-19 restrictions in New York, and his attacks on the state’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, have been amplified by President Donald Trump. When Tischler’s supporters violently attacked Kornbluh last week, they were seen carrying Trump re-election flags in videos documenting the attack.
An adviser to the Trump campaign, Boris Ephsteyn, accused New York Democrats of “targeting Jews” in response to Tischler’s arrest. He later tweeted, however, that it is “not acceptable” for people to demonstrate outside Kornbluh’s home, and that “turning on one another is the last thing our community needs.”