BOROUGH PARK, Brooklyn — On Thursday, New York's governor and New York City's mayor condemned a violent attack on a journalist in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
It took place Wednesday night, during protests in response to the COVID-19 cluster shutdown that the governor had decreed, and which the mayor is responsible for implementing. On Thursday, the mayor acknowledged that more has to be done to protect people in the cluster zones.
The target of the violence was reporter Jacob Kornbluh of the Jewish Insider publication. He talked about the incident in an interview with WCBS 880. He later spoke with PIX11's Jay Dow.
"He came toward me without a mask," Kornbluh said, referring to Harold "Heshy" Tischler, who allegedly led the attack, "almost pinning me to the shop front, and started talking to me, spitting into my face, saying I'm a snitch, I'm an informer."
Tischler organized and led protests that became violent on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Videos from the scene, on 13th Avenue, the main shopping street of Borough Park, show Tischler attacking Kornbluh, and inciting the group of protesters.
"The crowd just ganged on me, yelled at me, 'Hitler, Nazi,' slipped the finger, spat at me, tried to pull me, kick me, somebody hit me in the head and it took a few minutes walking down the street until I was able to escape with the help of the NYPD."
Kornbluh said he's pressed charges against Tischler, who in turn has denied inciting the violence, even though multiple videos taken by eyewitnesses show that he initiated the act that Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned.
"There is no excuse for violence," the governor said in a teleconference on Thursday. "Especially against a reporter, right?" the governor continued. This is a person who was doing his job."
The protests were in reaction to the red, orange and yellow cluster zones the governor set up to try and reduce COVID-19 rates in five communities statewide, including in Borough Park, where infections are up to to eight times the level considered non-spreading.
In the red zones, mass gatherings are banned, churches, synagogues, mosques and all houses of worship can have no more than 10 people at a time, restaurants are take-out only, non-essential businesses are closed, and so are public and private schools.
The protests are in opposition to those restrictions, and have turned violent at night. At his daily briefing on Thursday, Mayor de Blasio admitted that his administration is not doing enough to protect everyone.
"There's something here that needs to be fixed right away," the mayor said. "It will be fixed today, and made public. Violence is unacceptable."
Also on Thursday, a local activist, Rev. Kevin McCall, said that the city needs to take more action against Tischler.
"We're calling for him to be arrested," McCall said, at a morning news conference organized with Brooklyn-based lawyer Sanford Rubenstein. "We're calling on the district attorney to actually open up an investigation."
The NYPD announced Thursday evening that officers would be educating residents about the importance of wearing a mask and also handing them out.
To ensure what happened in Brooklyn last night does not happen again, our officers will be out educating residents about the importance of wearing a mask and maintaining proper social distancing. We will be offering masks to those that do not have. pic.twitter.com/qqQz4MkUd0— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) October 8, 2020
"While we hope for voluntary compliance from all New Yorkers, in the instance that compliance is not met, we will be conducting enforcement as needed," the NYPD announced in a tweet.