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NYC COVID Lockdown Protest Leader Arrested on Riot Charge

October 12, 2020

NEW YORK — A leader of protests against new coronavirus restrictions in several New York neighborhoods has been arrested on charges of inciting to riot and unlawful imprisonment for allegedly instigating an assault on a journalist, police said.

The New York City Police Department said Heshy Tischler was taken into custody Sunday evening in connection with the Oct. 7 assault on Jacob Kornbluh, a reporter for Jewish Insider.

Tischler, a City Council candidate and a self-described activist in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn, said Friday on social media that he had agreed to turn himself into police this week. He has since been charged after allegedly instigating the attack on Kornbluh, who is also an Orthodox Jew and has angered some in the community for his reporting on anti-lockdown protests.

Several dozen men gathered outside Kornbluh's apartment late Sunday to protest Tischler's arrest. 

It wasn't clear if Tischler had an attorney to represent him.

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. 

"Under the Hebrew teachings, participation in a religious ceremony can be excused for matter of health and life and safety," Cuomo said Sunday. "Leviticus, love your neighbors, yourself, and the point here is to save a life and not to endanger others, not to endanger others in the same congregation, not to endanger others in the same community, and that's what is happening with these large congregations." 

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