New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) told a reporter for a Jewish newspaper that "400 years of American racism" justify his decision to permit mass protests but not prayer services.
"Four hundred 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 Hamodia‘s Reuvain Borchardt.
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Hamodia reporter asks why protest is allowed when prayer services aren’t.@NYCMayor @BilldeBlasio: "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"
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) June 2, 2020
De Blasio said his allowances for the protesters and his curtailment of religious services did not amount to a double standard, and he criticized Borchardt for asking if his solidarity with the protesters affected his decision.
"I'm going to tell you that anyone who thinks there are different rules for different people, again, is not trying very hard to see the reality," de Blasio said. "And I'm just not going to hold back. If you guys want to really work hard to miss the reality, be my guest."
De Blasio was addressing the protests that have spread across the city in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. The protests have been accompanied by several nights of violent looting, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) criticized de Blasio Tuesday for his failure to contain the looting in the city. De Blasio reportedly refused the help of the National Guard and did not mobilize the entirety of the NYPD.
De Blasio's comments Tuesday come just weeks after the mayor took heat for criticizing New York's Jewish community following a rabbi's funeral. The mayor took to Twitter to single out the Jewish community for not observing social distancing guidelines during the procession, which was occurring in cooperation with the NYPD.
"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," he wrote on Twitter.
De Blasio's tweet drew condemnation from other New York lawmakers. Rep. Max Rose (D.) described the statement as "breathtaking" and "beyond insensitive."
Under de Blasio's watch, New York City has experienced an epidemic of anti-Semitic crime in recent years. The city only prosecuted 13 individuals for anti-Semitic hate crimes between 2017 and 2019, a number that comprised just 6 percent of all complaints of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city.