De Blasio suggests crackdown on violent protests in Orthodox neighborhoods

Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged a “clearer approach to enforcement” on Thursday, after the second night of sometimes-violent unrest in a Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood — as he fended off questions on whether authorities treated Black Lives Matter protestors more harshly.

Hizzoner was grilled on why the NYPD made no arrests for a second consecutive night in the Borough Park unrest despite reported assaults — but also signaled a possible coming wholesale crackdown over health fears, even though he endorsed people-packed Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

“What we have here is we absolutely must have consistency of response,” de Blasio said in a City Hall press briefing. “We have to ensure that all communities are treated the same way.

“I expect from tonight on a much clearer approach to enforcement.”

Throughout the two nights of protest in Borough Park following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Tuesday announcement that non-essential businesses would be closed and houses of worship hit with admittance caps in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, the NYPD has not made a single arrest or issued a single summons.

That hands-off approach comes despite both flagrant public-health violations by the mostly maskless crowd and three alleged assaults: Two against photographers on Tuesday night and a third against a Jewish journalist on Wednesday.

“I’m again instructing the NYPD and the [city] Law Department and the legal experts on this to get together, come with a single clear standard [and] put it out publicly today so everyone knows exactly what will happen,” said de Blasio. “We must have consistency in our approach to these issues in every part of this city and that’s what we’ll do.”

By contrast, the NYPD faced allegations of heavy-handed enforcement at the summer’s BLM protests, which sometimes devolved into violent looting but often did not.

Even as de Blasio vowed equitable enforcement of the protests, he suggested Thursday that he might shut down the Borough Park gatherings altogether over the public-health risks with the coronavirus mounting a comeback.

Protests in Borough Park
Getty Images

He said that through the COVID-19 pandemic there’s been a “difficult balance that the NYPD and the City of New York tried to strike between the health care realities and the American right to protest, the constitutional right to protest.

“We’re in a situation where we have state-mandated restrictions in particular areas to stop a resurgence and that resurgence, if it is not stopped, will overtake the whole city and it will lead to an across-the-board set of restrictions on all of New York City,” he continued.

“We need to get very, very clear on the legal issues once and for all in light of this reality and again be very public about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in light of this new reality.”

When concerns were raised that those same BLM demonstrations could lead to a spike in the coronavirus, Hizzoner urged participants to take health precautions, but ultimately made no effort to tamp them down wholesale, stressing Americans’ right to protest.

Those outbursts came, however, at a time when numbers indicated the virus was on the decline, not ramping up as it is of late.

Additionally, many participants wore masks, unlike the Borough Park protests, at which most attendees have made a point of going bare-faced.

Testing data ultimately showed that the summer protests brought no significant uptick in diagnoses.

Hizzoner himself has faced relentless criticism from Cuomo for failing to enforce existing public-health regulations, with the governor saying that had the mayor done so the latest shutdown might not be necessary.