Outspoken protester Harold “Heshy” Tischler was taken into custody Sunday evening in connection with an alleged assault during protests against new anti-coronavirus restrictions in an Orthodox Jewish area of Brooklyn, New York police say.
Some members of the Orthodox Jewish community protested in the Borough Park neighborhood for multiple nights last week in response to the measures, which limit gatherings in houses of worship in areas identified as Covid-19 clusters.
Jewish Insider reporter Jacob Kornbluh claimed on a verified Twitter account that during protests Wednesday night he was brutally assaulted after Tischler “recognized me and ordered the crowd to chase me down the street.”
Confirming Tischler’s detention Sunday, a New York City Police Department spokesman said that charges of inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment in connection with the incident surrounding Kornbluh are pending.
“The New York City Police Department Warrant Squad has taken Harold ‘Heshy’ Tischler into custody. He will be charged with inciting to riot and unlawful imprisonment in connection with an assault of a journalist that took place on October 7, 2020 in Brooklyn,” the department said on Twitter.
CNN has made multiple attempts to reach Tischler, but has not received a response.
Tischler is a candidate for New York City Council, a supporter of President Trump, and an outspoken critic of social distancing restrictions, according to posts on his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Tischler tweeted a video last week that he would be “arrested Monday” or will be turning himself in for inciting a riot. “I’ll be taken in Monday morning, I’ll be going into prison.”
He said he would be pleading not guilty because “I did not commit this crime of violence, nobody was arrested that night.”
“I’m thinking maybe let them come get me,” he said.
Kornbluh, who is the Jewish Insider’s national politics reporter, tweeted that he was hit in the head and kicked by members of the crowd in Wednesday night’s protests. He thanked “heroic police officers” for saving him.
Tischler called the journalist a “terrible, bad man,” and said Kornbluh had harassed him the night before.
Kornbluh told CNN Friday that Tischler’s account of the events are “inaccurate” and maintains that it will be confirmed once the investigation is complete.
“I have shared my communications with him with authorities and have faith in the process,” Kornbluh said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week instituted new anti-Covid 19 measures to try to stop hot spot clusters in Brooklyn, Queens, and several New York City suburbs from spreading further.
His executive order limits gatherings in houses of worship up to 25% capacity or maximum of 10 people in “red zone” clusters, while those in the “orange zone” can operate up to 33% capacity with a maximum of 25 people. Houses of worship in a “yellow zone,” meanwhile, may operate up to 50%.
On Friday, Cuomo said such restrictions were not unprecedented.
“We have always attacked clusters. This cluster happens to be predominantly the ultra-Orthodox in Brooklyn and Queens,” Cuomo said. “This is not the first time the state has taken this action.”
But the restrictions exacerbated existing tensions between city leaders and some in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order blocking the new restrictions and arguing that Cuomo’s order “disproportionately impacts Orthodox Jewish services.”
But on Friday a federal judge ruled against the group.
“This ruling is disappointing, to say the least,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel. “Of course we understand the importance of taking precautionary measures against Covid-19, but there are ways to do so without totally disrupting our ability to use our shuls.”
Meantime, the New York Jewish Agenda – an organization that, according to its website, works to advance social justice and combat anti-Semitism – on Friday joined a group of Orthodox rabbis and Kornbluh in urging people in Covid-19 hotspot areas across the city to comply with health measures, according to a news release from the organization.
“Asking all of us to wear masks, to observe social distancing and avoid large congregate gatherings is not an antisemitic act on the part of our city and country in the attempt to save lives,” said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, a cofounder of NYJA.
CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarski contributed to this report.