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Police Arrest Anti-Lockdown Protest Leader In New York's Orthodox Jewish Community

A leader of protests against coronavirus restrictions in New York's Jewish Orthodox community has been arrested on charges of inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment of a journalist, according to police.

Harold "Heshy" Tischler, an activist in the city's Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park, was taken into custody Sunday following an Oct. 7 protest against limits on the number of worshippers in synagogues.

In a video from the protest posted to social media, a maskless Tischler and others are seen encircling and screaming at Jacob Kornbluh, a journalist for Jewish Insider who has reported on the resistance to the COVID-19 restrictions. Kornbluh also claims he was kicked by the crowd.

On Twitter, Kornbluh wrote that Tischler "recognized me and ordered the crowd to chase me down the street."

Tischler, who is also a talk show host and candidate for City Council, called his arrest a "political stunt" on Twitter.

Late Sunday, several dozen men, some carrying "Trump 2020" flags, also gathered outside Kornbluh's Borough Park apartment to protest Tischler's arrest.

Last week, Tischler said he had made a deal with police to turn himself in on Monday morning, but when he was arrested on Sunday, he claimed he had been "tricked" by authorities, according to a video posted to Twitter.

The protests in Borough Park broke out last week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new round of restrictions on schools, businesses and houses of worship in areas where coronavirus infections have increased. Many of the recent hotspots in the city are in Orthodox Jewish areas, with the spike attributed in part to the Jewish holidays in late September.

Cuomo said on Sunday that the areas contain 2.8% of the state's population, but have accounted for 17.6% of all positive cases reported in the past week.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.