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16 Jun, 2020 04:45

WATCH Orthodox Jewish activists use BOLT CUTTERS to reopen New York park closed under Covid-19 lockdown

WATCH Orthodox Jewish activists use BOLT CUTTERS to reopen New York park closed under Covid-19 lockdown

Growing restless under New York City’s ongoing coronavirus lockdown, a group of Orthodox Jews have taken matters into their own hands, using a pair of bolt cutters to forcefully reopen a park shuttered as part of the restrictions.

Led by activist Heshy Tischler and a number of state assemblymen, the group was seen in videos shared to social media on Monday breaking the lock off a gate barring the entrance to a park in Williamsburg, allowing a crowd gathered outside to enter, to cheers of “Heshy!”

Tensions between New York’s Orthodox population and the city administration have soared to new heights in recent months, with community members insisting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Covid-19 containment measures have been applied more heavily to Jewish neighborhoods. In April, de Blasio came under fire after he personally supervised police as they broke up a large funeral procession for a popular local rabbi, singling out the “Jewish community” by name in a chastising tweet warning of the dangers of the virus.

More recently, city workers were seen welding shut some parks in an effort to enforce the lockdown and keep residents away, but that has done little to tamp down on frustration over the measures, apparently inspiring Tischler’s act of civil disobedience earlier on Monday. He may have taken cues from others, however, as dozens of other locks have reportedly been snapped off park gates in recent weeks.

“Every playground in the city is closed. This is a matter of health and safety,” said Jane Meyer, deputy press secretary for de Blasio’s office, explaining the decision to keep parks shuttered. The city Parks and Recreation Office, meanwhile, noted the welding was a “reversible procedure” and said the gate would soon be unwelded and fitted with a new chain.

In a similar effort to discourage park-goers, the city has removed basketball hoops and other amenities, which has also sparked outrage among community members – even those taking careful precautions to limit exposure to Covid-19.

Local lawmakers have waded into the row, with New York State Senator Simcha Felder stating that residents are “running out of patience” with the lockdown. He demanded that the mayor opens every playground in his community, vowing that he and other officials would “cut the locks open” themselves if de Blasio failed to act.

Some of the anger among residents has been driven by the city’s apparent double standards on which types of public gatherings are acceptable. As authorities crack down on playgrounds and even funeral ceremonies, tens of thousands of protesters have been allowed to gather and march all over the city, facing little to no resistance despite ignoring the lockdown and social distancing measures. As city workers dutifully welded parks shut on Monday, a large crowd was seen freely protesting in Washington Square Park, while Sunday saw an even more massive gathering in Brooklyn.

“I couldn’t be at the hospital yesterday when my granddaughter was born! But this can happen!”said one outraged netizen, referring to Sunday’s Black Lives Matter protest.

De Blasio, moreover, has stated that protest attendees will not be “asked proactively” if they participated in any demonstrations by contact tracers looking to map the spread of the virus, drawing further cries of hypocrisy. While the move was meant to protect the privacy and speech rights of protesters, critics insist those rights apply evenly to all New Yorkers, not only those expressing one type of political viewpoint.

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