For one day on Sunday, it was like the coronavirus pandemic didn’t exist.
In Brooklyn, an estimated 15,000 people gathered for a Black Trans Lives Matter protest. It was the largest of several protests in major cities throughout the nation — and they seemed to exist in a universe divorced from COVID-19.
And officialdom in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York City certainly wasn’t doing anything about it. Take a look at the crowd:
Happening now in Brooklyn.. Silent march for Black Trans lives.. shot by my friend who has this amazing view from her living room… pic.twitter.com/Caa8hj62DX
— natiba (@natiba) June 14, 2020
I’m not here to pass judgment on the march, mind you. In fact, I would argue reasonable people should have no issue with it. The right to peaceable assembly is guaranteed in our Constitution and the right to seek cultural redress for grievances isn’t overridden by a virus. Now, other liberals should try extending this kind of cultural license to hairdressers or presidents, but I digress.
The tolerance for the Black Trans Lives Matter protest march contrasted with another scene from the borough of Brooklyn on Monday:
NYC Park Dept are now Welding shut the doors at Middleton Playground (Lynch Park) so the kids shouldn’t be able to play in the park. pic.twitter.com/KPOxwpksLF
— WILLIAMSBURG NEWS (@WMSBG) June 15, 2020
City employees apparently thought it was a great use of time and resources to weld the gates to a children’s playground.
According to the New York Post, the lock at the Middleton Playground in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg — shut by the city due to the virus — had been repeatedly cut by activists in the neighborhood. The city then welded it shut to prove a point.
A few hours later, what the Post described as a “bolt cutter-wielding mob” forced its way in anyway.
“How long can we keep our kids in prison?” a mother of six said, according to the Post. “I don’t feel like I live in a free country.”
The Parks Department told the Post that Middleton Playground locks had been cut an estimated 25 times in the last few weeks and the welding was “a temporary measure … used to shut the playground after it was breached.”
“It will be unwelded today and replaced with a lock,” spokeswoman Anessa Hodgson said in a statement, according to the Post.
The welding was complicated by the fact the park is located in an overwhelmingly Orthodox Jewish part of the city; de Blasio’s strange fixation on events and gatherings hosted in Brooklyn’s Jewish communities has been a problem for his image, with many accusing the mayor’s administration of latent (or, in some cases, not-so-latent) anti-Semitism.
The crowd that cut its way into the park, according to WABC-TV, was made up of members of the Orthodox community — still not a good look on de Blasio. It wasn’t just frustrated parents weighing in on the matter, either. At least one local state assemblyman is saying the city needs to open the playgrounds to kids.
“This is the mayor’s job and he should come here and offer these people some relief,” Democrat Joseph Lentol told the station. On Twitter, he called the welding “UNACCEPTABLE” and said he would “be calling upon Mayor de Blasio to open the gates at the Middleton Playground to allow children to play.”
Welding the doors shut at Middleton Playground during a time when our children need the open space to run and play is UNACCEPTABLE. @NYCMayor: open our playgrounds. @UnitedJewish @DerYidNewspaper @DerBlattHQ @SatmarHQ https://t.co/D0BnrMOPbo
— Joe Lentol (@assemblymanjoe) June 15, 2020
Today 5pm: I will be calling upon Mayor de Blasio to open the gates at the Middleton Playground to allow children to play. pic.twitter.com/89U3XSfMHg
— Joe Lentol (@assemblymanjoe) June 15, 2020
The mayor, you may not be surprised to know, isn’t going to go anywhere to offer anyone some relief, at least right now.
“I understand people’s frustrations,” de Blasio said, according to ABC. “But if folks act prematurely, and that causes the disease to start spreading again, then that’s the kind of thing that will undermine our ability to get to Phase Two and stay in Phase Two.”
That “Phase Two” bureau-speak refers to New York state’s reopening plan. The state’s been divided into 10 regions, nine of which are in Phase Two of reopening.
As explained by New York Magazine, “Phase One will allow construction, manufacturing, and wholesale supply-chain businesses to reopen, as well as many retailers for curbside pickup, in-store pickup, or drop-off. Phase-one retail categories include clothing and shoes, electronics and appliances, web and mail-order, florists, jewelry, luggage, and sporting goods, among others.”
Meanwhile, “Phase Two will allow a wider range of businesses to reopen, including: offices, outdoor dining, places of worship (at 25 percent capacity), and storefront retailers and businesses in the professional-services, finance and insurance, administrative support, and real-estate and rental-leasing industries.
“Salons and barbershops will be also able to reopen with limited capacity, as will car dealerships.”
And then there are other regions that have been cleared for Phase Three, which means you can have gatherings of up to 25 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. Got all that?
New York City is in Phase One because it remains the locus of the coronavirus’ impact in the United States. It just saw a gathering of 15,000 people for a Black Trans Lives Matter protest and the media barely mentioned coronavirus in coverage of the event, much less anything about those phases.
And from his previous statements, you can guess de Blasio isn’t too caught up in the phases when it comes to mass protest events that align with his political values.
During the earlier spate of protests over the death of George Floyd killing in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, the mayor told an Orthodox Jewish publication that these protests were different from people going about their daily lives.
“When you see a nation, an entire nation, simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” de Blasio told a reporter for the Jewish publication Hamodia at a June 2 news conference.
“This is something that’s not about which side of the spectrum you’re on. It’s about a deep, deep American crisis. We have never seen anything quite like what we’ve seen in the last few days. This is a powerful, painful historical moment.”
It may indeed be, but viruses don’t discriminate between “powerful, painful” historical moments and people resuming their everyday lives.
A grouping of people is either a dangerous opportunity for a contagion to spread or it isn’t. It’s that simple. It doesn’t make locking kids out of a city playground by welding the gates shut acceptable in any way, shape or form.
And then there’s the matter of enforcing all of this, which New York City has proven it can’t necessarily do. Instead, the de Blasio administration has chosen it’s going to plant its flag, quite inefficiently, in the tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, which the mayor is prone to target with missives like this:
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. 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.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
The contrast of the city allowing a protest with tens of thousands of demonstrators while city employees are welding shut the gates on a playground a day later should leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, particularly when it’s another instance of the de Blasio administration targeting the Orthodox Jewish community.
This deserves to be called out as the absurdity that it is.
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