Mayor de Blasio hit with FOI request over comments on Jewish funeral

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A leading Jewish civil rights group has filed a freedom of information legal request against the NYPD and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to establish why the mayor chose to target a Jewish funeral in calling out social distancing violations.

The Lawfare Project, the world’s leading Jewish civil rights litigation fund, has accused the mayor of adding ‘fuel to the fire’ of anti-Semitic hate crimes after personally traveling to disperse mourners on the same day that hundreds gathered to watch the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration teams participate in flyover.

‘It is outrageous for the mayor, charged with protecting the rights of all New Yorkers, to seemingly selectively enforce the law only against the Jewish community,’ Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, told

‘That is the essence of anti-Semitism, and it must stop.’

Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Orthodox Jewish funeral in Williamsburg on April 28 to warn off hundreds of mourners for a lack of social distancing. A Jewish civil rights litigation fund has now filed a freedom of information request to establish why he targeted the Jewish community

The NYPD have also been filed with the request, looking for documents relating to police presence at the funeral. Pictured at NYPD officer at the April 28 funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz

Mayor Bill de Blasio came under attack in late April for singling out the Jewish community for breaking social distancing – when he travels 11 miles from his home to go for a walk in Prospect Park.

On April 28, he instructed police to arrest mourners at funerals and anyone gathering in large groups in a new ‘zero tolerance’ approach to stop the spread of coronavirus.

‘Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,’ he wrote on Twitter after traveling to the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz.

He claims he decided to go after photos revealed hundreds of people had gathered in the streets to pay their respects.

‘When I heard, I 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.’

The mayor went on to send a stark warning to the community that the police will issue summons and even arrest people flouting social distancing guidelines.

Mayor de Blasio was criticized for his tweet which some claimed targeted the Jewish community while ignoring that other groups were not using social distancing

Mayor de Blasio was criticized for his tweet which some claimed targeted the Jewish community while ignoring that other groups were not using social distancing

Mayor de Blasio was criticized for his tweet which some claimed targeted the Jewish community while ignoring that other groups were not using social distancing

‘My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘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’s response faced a backlash from some members of the Jewish community who said he was ‘singling out’ the group.

The Lawfare Project, which describes itself as the legal arm of the international Jewish community, has now issued the FOIL request to establish what information led to de Blasio tweeting specifically about the Jewish community.

The request calls on NYPD officials to release documents surrounding the funeral.

The have also requested information from the NYPD on the police presence deployed to other minority neighborhoods such as the Muslim, African-American and Latinto community.

To place in contrast, The Lawfare Project requested access to information on the NYPD forces deployed as hundreds gathered to view the Blue Angels flyover that happened just hours before Mayor de Blasio appeared at Rabbi Chaim Mertz’ funeral.

‘The Lawfare Project is concerned that, at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are skyrocketing in New York City, Mayor de Blasio has added fuel to the fire by singling out the entire Jewish community for the spread of the coronavirus, even threatening its members with arrest,’ Gerard Filitti, Senior Counsel at The Lawfare Project, told

‘In light of the mayor’s outrageous statement, we have filed FOIL requests to investigate whether the mayor and the NYPD have taken actions that have disproportionately – and unlawfully – targeted the Jewish community.’

The FOIL filed against De Blasio for his tweet about the Jewish funeral includes requests for information about the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyover that happened the same day

In order to determine, the process behind the Mayor’s call to the NYPD to arrest mourners while remaining silent on other large social gatherings in the city, the group has requested documents referring to the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz from NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, NYPD Chief Terence Monahan, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Captain Mark Vaquez from the 90th precinct, as well as documents referencing NYPD cooperation or preparation for a funeral in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on April 28.

Commissioner Shea has also been asked to present documents in which he may have been informed of the death of Rabbi Chaim Mertz on April 28.

The Mayor’s office is specifically asked for documents reflecting the actions taken by Mayor Bill de Blasio when he traveled to Brooklyn on April 28, 2020 in connection with the dispersal of the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz.

New York police officers and members of the Jewish Shorim neighborhood safety patrol instruct a crowd as hundreds of mourners gather in Brooklyn on April 28. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been criticized for traveling to the funeral to warn about social distancing

Mayor Bill de Blasio chastised ‘the Jewish community’ following the breakup of the large funeral that flouted public health orders, for which he was harshly criticized

They have requested the same group of people to provide documents in connection with the flyover of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds on the same day including any NYPD participation and the instructions personnel were given.

They also focus on 311 calls involving complaints about breaches in social distancing guidelines, focusing on April 28, the day of the funeral and the Blue Angels flyover.

The group is reaching further back, requesting any documents involving the assignment, mobilization or deployment of police officers or resources that contain the terms ‘Jew,’ ‘Jews,’ ‘Jewish,’ ‘Temple,’ ‘Synagogue,’ ‘Shul, ‘Hassid’ or ‘Hassidic’ from March 18 onward when the social distancing guidelines began to be implemented.

They extended this with a request for any documents regarding the deployment, mobilization, assignment of NYPD personnel, including but not limited to police officers, to predominantly Haisdic, Muslim, African-American and Latino neighborhoods from March 1 onward.

Mayor de Blasio was forced to apologize in late April after he singled out the Jewish community for attending a large orthodox funeral in Brooklyn.

Pilots from the US Navy joined forces with the Air Force for a dazzling display over New York City that also drew out hundreds of onlookers on the same day as the funeral

The lawmaker said he had instructed police to arrest large groups of mourners in a new ‘zero tolerance’ approach after personally traveling to break up the Hasidic funeral of Rabbi Chaim Maertz.

But his actions and words sparked a furious backlash, with critics pointing out he travels 11 miles from his home to go for a walk and that crowds had earlier gathered to watch a military flyover but were not similarly treated by officials.

De Blasio was later forced to say sorry – but still insisted he had ‘no regrets about calling out this danger and saying we’re going to deal with it very, very aggressively’.

He said: ‘If in my passion and in my emotion, I said something that in any way was hurtful, I’m sorry about that.

‘That was not my intention. But I also want to be clear: I have no regrets about calling out this danger and saying we’re going to deal with it very, very aggressively.’

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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