- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Members of the Orthodox Jewish community defied the city of New York by using bolt cutters to “liberate” a playground in Brooklyn on Monday, as some argue the coronavirus pandemic is no longer a concern if thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters are permitted to gather in the streets.

Earlier Monday, city officials welded a gate shut at the Middleton Playground in Williamsburg after the locks to the park were cut at least 25 times, Parks Department officials told the New York Daily News. The move came one day after thousands of protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose police-custody death sparked a wave of national unrest.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol slammed the city welding the park gates as “unacceptable” and called on the mayor to open the gates. Several hours later, workers removed the welding and replaced it with a chain, which is what the Jewish group cut through Monday night, the Daily News reported.

Videos posted on Twitter showed three men using the bolt cutters to remove the chains as the crowd around them cheered.

Moshi Blum, 32, said the neighborhood’s residents were outraged that their children couldn’t use the playground while thousands marched in the streets.

“Most of us have large families,” he told the Daily News. “We see thousands gather, why should this be a problem? … We believe COVID-19 is over.”

Another resident, Joel Finestein, 28, called the playground “essential.”

“I don’t see any crime,” he said. “I see social distancing.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ordered public pools and playgrounds closed April 1, said last week that it would be up to local municipalities to decide when to reopen them.

“Playgrounds across the City are closed for the safety of our children, and we will engage with this community to find a solution,” a city Parks Department spokeswoman told the Daily News on Monday.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has openly supported the protests, has been widely criticized for his treatment of the Jewish community during the pandemic. In April, he specifically mentioned the Jewish community while threatening New Yorkers with arrest if they gathered in large groups.

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