NYC virus lockdown protest leader arrested on riot charge

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NEW YORK (AP) — A leader of protests against new coronavirus restrictions in Brooklyn has been arrested on charges of inciting people to riot and unlawful imprisonment of a journalist who was chased and trapped by a crowd, police said.

Heshy Tischler, a City Council candidate and activist in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park, was taken into custody Sunday evening in connection with his actions during an Oct. 7 street protest.

Video shows a crowd of men, egged on by Tischler, surrounding, jostling and taunting Jewish Insider journalist Jacob Kornbluh, who has been reporting on resistance to social distancing in the neighborhood. Tischler, who was not wearing a mask, can be seen screaming in Kornbluh’s face. Kornbluh, who is also an Orthodox Jew, said he was struck and kicked during the incident.

Tischler called his arrest a “political stunt” on Twitter. He has said he believed his interactions with Kornbluh were protected by the First Amendment.

In another act of intimidation, several dozen men gathered outside the reporter’s apartment late Sunday to protest Tischler’s arrest.

Large protests erupted in Borough Park last week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions on schools, businesses and houses of worship in areas where coronavirus infection rates have increased.

The majority of the areas facing lockdowns are home to large Orthodox Jewish populations, and religious leaders have complained of being singled out. The spike in cases coincided with the back-to-back Jewish holidays in late September.

Cuomo said Sunday that the so-called cluster areas contain 2.8% of the state’s population, yet have had 17.6% of all positive confirmed cases reported this past week.

The Democratic governor urged people living in those areas to abide by the restrictions even though the new rules ban large gatherings in synagogues.

Tischler has led some of the opposition, cutting the chains off playgrounds in the spring after they were ordered closed by the state and recently disrupting a news conference by the head of the city’s hospital system.

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