Jewish residents in Brooklyn used bolt cutters to cut through a lock placed on a Brooklyn park Monday evening after thousands of protesters gathered in the borough a day earlier to express support for black transgender people.
Footage posted Monday on social media showed members of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community taking bolt cutters to the lock on Middleton Playground in south Williamsburg. The New York City Parks & Recreation department had welded shut one of the parks’ four entrances Monday morning but later undid the welding job and locked the entrance with a chain and padlock.
— Satmar Headquarters (@HQSatmar) June 15, 2020
“Playgrounds across the City are closed for the safety of our children, and we will engage with this community to find a solution,” a city Parks Department representative said.
The lock was cut after Jewish residents held a rally outside the park on Monday evening, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to open the park and allow children inside. The park has reportedly been broken into at least 25 times over the past several weeks.
Another video clip posted on social media showed a woman shouting at the Jewish residents for opening the park.
Things getting heated in #Williamsburg #Brooklyn when local resident furious that lock to park was broken to allow children to play. Thousands protest each day with approval of @NYCMayor, but 100 children can't play in a park. pic.twitter.com/yNMxpZfG75
— NYC Scanner (@NYScanner) June 15, 2020
The rally was led by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, who said in a statement that he did not see the locks being cut but understands the “frustration which would lead that to happening.”
“When attending today’s rally, I said I believe that the playground should be open and said so very strongly,” he said.
“Our families do not feel that they are being heard. I see this rally as a peaceful message, with the clipping of the locks as a strong signal that the families are unhappy and fed up. They want activities for their children and they want to be heard. The city must come up with a better plan than cutting off access to playgrounds entirely,” Lentol continued.
De Blasio criticized the Jewish residents for bypassing the park closures, warning about the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“We’re not going to allow people to take the law into their own hands,” the mayor said at a press conference Tuesday, adding that playgrounds will remain closed until the city reaches phase two of the reopening process.
“I understand people’s frustrations, but if folks act prematurely and that causes the disease to start spreading again, then that’s the kind of thing that will undermine our ability to get to phase two and stay in phase two,” de Blasio said.
Last week, three Orthodox Jewish congregants along with two Catholic priests filed a lawsuit against de Blasio and New York governor Andrew Cuomo in federal court, alleging that the state selectively enforced pandemic-control measures on religious New Yorkers, violating their constitutional rights.
Even as mass protests were allowed to take place across the state, people of faith were targeted with threats of criminal prosecution and $1000 fines for violating the restrictions on group gatherings, the suit alleges.