(May 8, 2020 / JNS) The Lawfare Project, a Jewish legal and civil-rights group, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request as part of an investigation into the alleged targeting of New York City’s Jewish community.
The investigation comes as after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio upset many with a series of tweets about the Jewish community after hundreds gathered in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn for the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz. The synagogue that held the gathering later apologized for the crowd.
“The Lawfare Project is concerned that, at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are skyrocketing in New York City, Mayor de Blasio has added fuel to the fire by singling out the entire Jewish community for the spread of the coronavirus, even threatening its members with arrest,” Gerard Filitti, senior council at the Lawfare Project, said in a statement. “In light of the mayor’s outrageous statement, we have filed FOIL requests to investigate whether the mayor and the NYPD have taken actions that have disproportionately, and unlawfully, targeted the Jewish community.”
In documentation provided to JNS by the Lawfare Project, several high-profile instances did not result in the NYPD issuing summonses or arrests for social-distancing violations.
This includes a March 26 incident where dozens of people were gathered in Astoria Park in Queens; an April 3 event where hundreds of motorcyclists ignored social-distancing guidelines and participated in a funeral procession; and during a flyover of the Blue Angels on April 28, when a number of media reports suggested social-distancing was ignored. No arrests or summonses were reported from these event.
Following de Blasio’s apology, the NYPD also broke up a second overcrowded Jewish funeral later that week.
As part of the request, the Lawfare Project is seeking communications related to the Mertz funeral, the NYPD’s response, the Blue Angels event and other documentation concerning any individuals who violated mandatory social-distancing orders.
In addition to targeting the Jewish community, African-Americans and Latinos have been issued more than 80 percent of summonses for social-distancing violations in the city, reported CNN. Local officials have spoken out regarding the unfair targeting of these communities.
“We will always fight to protect and preserve the civil and human rights of the Jewish community,” said Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, in a statement. “It is outrageous for the mayor, charged with protecting the rights of all New Yorkers, to seemingly selectively enforce the law only against the Jewish community. That is the essence of anti-Semitism, and it must stop.”
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