A video showing a police officer arguing with a group of Orthodox Jews in a New York town has drawn angry reactions from people online, who see it as evidence of persecution and harassment of the US Jewish community.
The confrontation apparently happened in Monsey, a place in Rockland County famous as a major center of Orthodox Judaism in the US. It shows a police officer standing on the doorstep of a house, engaged in a heated argument with a group of people, one of whom apparently owns the property.
Police officers enter PRIVATE HOMES to find Jewish gatherings in Monsey, New York:“We came because we had a vehicle parking complaint. Then I look up and I see you have over 10 people in a crowd!” pic.twitter.com/hXsXpuKJeG
The officer says his patrol was responding to a complaint about cars parked in front of the house and noticed that a gathering of more than 10 people was underway inside, which he called “an issue.” The owner, who is dressed as an Orthodox Jew, disagrees that “a few friends” calmly coming together is an issue requiring police intervention. Both parties speak angrily, suggesting that the dispute has been going on for some time without progress. It was not immediately clear how the situation was resolved.
The video quickly spread on social media on Friday and was picked by some right-wing outlets. Many people said the police were obviously overstepping their authority and interfering in private life. A lot of comments went as far as comparing the incident to persecution of Jews by the Nazis.
These are genuine, honest questions: New Yorkers, is the police doing this to non-Jewish residents as well? Also, why can’t the police officer explain what the issue is instead of shaking his head? Is it illegal to have more than 10 people in a house? https://t.co/p6IjGJbNNc
It’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference as time goes on… pic.twitter.com/S2So7rj7pj
The argument apparently stems from Covid-19 social distancing rules that are in place in the county. A gathering of over 10 people would not be allowed in a public space – even a park – in the town of Ramapo, to which Monsey belongs.
Orthodox Jews in the US, as well as in other parts of the world, have been notably resistant to lockdowns designed to slow the spread of infection. They say the rules are incompatible with their religious practices.
Monsey is no exception. In April, Ramapo police cracked down on an “illegal gathering” at a Monsey synagogue and arrested eight people for disorderly conduct. This week, a Torah procession scheduled for Sunday was canceled by the town authorities.
RPD has been advised that the Torah Procession scheduled for this Sunday 10/25 in the Village of Airmont has been cancelled. pic.twitter.com/MDn3mOcKFZ
The public debate on how harsh anti-Covid-19 rules should be is exacerbated in the US by the heavy politicization of the issue. The Trump administration stands accused of downplaying the severity of the disease and failing to impose a proper lockdown, causing tens of thousands of excessive deaths as a result.
Trump supporters in turn accuse his critics of hypocrisy because their preaching about the importance of social distancing was sidelined in order to support a wave of national protests against police brutality and racism. Many of the online comments about the Monsey incident said the Jews should have said their gathering was an “Black Lives Matter” event to scare off the police.
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