CNA Staff, Apr 29, 2020 / 14:30 pm
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio apologized on Wednesday afternoon, hours after sending a tweet that singled out “the Jewish community” while warning of consequences for groups if they violate social distancing orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I regret if the way I say it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way — it was not my intention," said de Blasio on Wednesday, referring to the past evening’s controversial tweet. De Blasio characterized his comments as “tough love.”
The previous evening, the mayor tweeted that he had instructed the city’s police force to issue summons to or arrest people who congregate in large groups. De Blasio specifically singled out the Jewish population of the city in his warning.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.” de Blasio said just after 9:30 p.m. on April 28.
De Blasio’s tweet was in response to a funeral held earlier in the evening for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, who died from COVID-19. The funeral service drew a large crowd of members of the Hasidic community to the streets of Williamsburg. The group was dispersed by NYPD officers. No one attending the funeral was arrested.
The mayor said that when he heard about the funeral, he “went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed.”
“And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus,” he tweeted.
De Blasio’s tweet drew criticism, with many noting the mayor’s own apparent violations of social distancing, as well as instances of large crowds of non-Hasidic people who were not wearing masks in public. On the day of the funeral in Williamsburg, many people congregated outdoors to watch a flyover tribute by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. The mayor did not comment on this activity.