A member of Brooklyn's Hasidic community was arrested for allegedly blocking traffic during an unauthorized religious procession through Borough Park on Sunday evening—leading to a chaotic scuffle and shouting match between outraged ultra-Orthodox Jews and several NYPD officers.
A police spokesperson says that Joel Herskovitz was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration, after he allegedly blocked traffic and refused to move out of the street.
The incident happened just before 7 p.m. on Sunday during the "Hachnosas Sefer Torah"—a celebration centered around the dedication of a new Torah scroll. Video posted by Yeshiva World News shows several NYPD vehicles interrupting the ceremony at 51st Street near 16th Avenue and ordering pedestrians off the street and onto the sidewalk.
When some participants refused the NYPD orders, a few officers attempted to forcibly move them out of the street. One noncomplying individual was chased down by police and pinned to the hood of a car, as onlookers shouted "He's not resisting!" and "What do you want from him?"
"We’re just shocked by the chaos,” one Chassidic woman told the website Matzav.com. “Everyone knows that our community and the NYPD have a remarkable relationship. To see conflict like this was just so out of the ordinary and simply astounding. We respect the police greatly, but we also hope that proper measures were taken and that no one was treated unfairly."
— Kollel Niyes (@KollelNiyes) October 8, 2018
Both the NYPD and Shomrim—a controversial neighborhood patrol organization—are typically notified of the Torah ceremony by the local community board, according to Yeshiva World News, but were not given a heads up this time. Some members of the community have speculated online that members of Shomrim called the police because they were not asked to help direct traffic during the ceremony.
In the aftermath of the arrest, a crowd of about 100 people gathered outside the 66th Precinct stationhouse to demand Herskovitz's release. The protests reportedly became unruly, with some in the crowd shouting "Nazi" in the direction of officers. New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger and New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind have also expressed concern about the arrest, with Hikind calling on the community to "exercise restraint."
Herskovitz was released at 9:30 p.m. to cheers and singing from the crowd. He received a desk appearance ticket, police said.