Hundreds of angry Hasidic Jews poured into the streets in Borough Park Tuesday night, snarling traffic and setting fires to protest the arrest of a senior member of their community.
The elderly man was arrested after being stopped for talking on his cell phone while driving, according to police. The man refused to hand over his license and registration, and the officers arrested him after a struggle, police said.
Police added that when they tried to take the man into custody, other people in the area interceded.
The arrest sparked an uproar in the Borough Park community, with irate men in traditional Hasidic garb packing the area around 47th Street and 16th Avenue, the intersection where the man was arrested. At least two bonfires burned after protesters ignited piles of cardboard boxes. Men threw more folded boxes onto the flames to make them stronger.
Police in riot gear arrived on the scene after Hasidim surrounded a cruiser, trapping an officer inside. The officer called for help when one of the windows was broken.
Shortly after the riot police arrived the protest lost intensity, but groups of men still milled about in the streets. The NYPD also dispatched a helicopter to the area to light up the streets with a powerful beam.
At one point, the mob blocked the passage of a tractor-trailer and a fire truck trying to put out one of the fires. A few scuffles broke out where protesters were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the street.
Police said they initially cleared officers from the area to avoid further provoking the protesters.
Hasidic Mob Confronts Police After Arrest Of Elderly Man
An angry mob of Hasidic Jews confronted police outside a Brooklyn station house Tuesday night after officers arrested an elderly Hasidic man.
Hundreds of Borough Park residents rushed the 66th precinct station house chanting “No justice, no peace” to protest what witnesses say was the rough treatment of an Hasidic business-owner by police.
Two garbage fires were set during the melee, which stretched for several blocks and closed numerous streets. Police, however, were able to contain the crowd by 9:30 p.m. and no injuries were reported.
Police sources say the protest was sparked after officers approached 75-year-old Arthur Schick, who was talking on his cellphone while double-parked in front of his family-owned bakery on 16th Avenue at around 6:30 p.m.
When police attempted to handcuff Schick, two other Hasidic men tried to step in. A crowd then formed, and the scene quickly grew unruly.
Protesters threw garbage and hundreds of residents blocked the street around Shick’s Bakery.
Community witnesses say the melee started because police dragged Schick from his car, roughly put him into a police van, and twice slammed the door on his leg.
Witnesses say Schick is a respected businessman who may not have immediately complied with police because he is hard of hearing.
“We saw him being pushed by the police against the car, then they grabbed his hand and put him into an arm-lock and violently manhandled him,” said Sariel Widawski. “This is a very busy day in Borough Park – we’re all preparing for the Passover holiday – and everybody was a witness to it. They started screaming at the police to leave the old man alone, but they kept on manhandling him and refused to stop.”
The heavily-Hasidic neighborhood has been the scene of tension between residents and authorities in the past. In 1978, more than 60 police officers were injured when a group of Hasidim stormed the 66th precinct house after an Hasidic man was fatally stabbed by a street robber.