More than two dozen people were arrested as pro-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrators clashed in New York City’s Times Square and police were investigating the gang assault of a Jewish man as a hate crime, police said Friday.
“It’s absolutely disgusting and unacceptable,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on WNYC public radio. “We had a man viciously beaten simply because he appeared to some individuals to be Jewish. We had folks throwing very potent fireworks and creating harm to others and burning some folks, at least one person.”
The melee on Thursday evening resulted in more than two dozen arrests on charges including hate crime assault, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and criminal possession of a weapon, according to city police. Police said their hate crime unit was investigating the attack on the Jewish man as well as “professional grade fireworks” being thrown at bystanders, injuring a woman.
A video posted to social media purporting to show the attack on the man shows a group of people striking and kicking what appears to be a person down on the street. One man appears to violently swing a crutch down on him.
The injured man, Joseph Borgen, later spoke to media outlets, telling FOX-5 on Friday he was “just cowering, just making sure I would survive.”
“They were using their fists. They were kicking me, punching me, kicking me all over my body. I have bruises on my ribs, my back, all over,” said Borgen, 29, who appeared with visible bruising on his face.
“What happened yesterday, is not the answer to anyone’s problems. Regardless of what skin color you are, what race you are, what ethnicity, what religion. It’s just wrong on so many levels,” he said.
Police on Friday afternoon announced on Twitter that Waseem Awawdeh, 23, was arrested for using a crutch to assault a man in that area. He was charged with hate crime assault and other charges. It could not immediately be determined if he had a lawyer.
Police did not provide further details.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday condemned the attack and said the state police Hate Crimes Task Force would offer assistance.
“New York is the vibrant and dynamic home for people from around the world. This tapestry makes New York the extraordinary place that it is. Those of all faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities must be able to walk the streets safely and free from harassment and violence,” Cuomo said in a prepared release.
During one part of the demonstrations, a large firework detonated on the sidewalk as groups of shouting pro-Palestinian protesters drove through Manhattan’s Diamond District, which is closely associated with the city’s Jewish community.
Video posted on social media showed people scrambling to get clear of the pyrotechnic as it detonated, and then showed shoving between bystanders and protesters, who shouted curses about Zionism.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire Thursday in an 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and left more than 200 people dead.
De Blasio said city police reinforced their presence in sensitive areas of Jewish and Palestinian communities after the fighting began overseas.