Activists call for criminal charges against Borough Park agitator

borough park
Radio personality and vocal anti-masker Heshy Tischler puts his arm around Councilman Kalman Yeger at the Oct. 6 protest.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Civil rights advocates say that a Borough Park agitator must face criminal charges for inciting violence in the neighborhood for two consecutive nights.

Rev. Kevin McCall of the Crisis Action Center said it is unconscionable that right-wing radio host Heshy Tischler is yet to be locked up, after back-to-back protests against lockdowns in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood have turned violent at his encouragement.

“He should be arrested and held accountable,” McCall said Thursday.

Multiple people have been beaten at Borough Park protests this week, including journalist Jacob Kornbluh, who was cornered by a large group who kicked and hit him while Tischler and supporters called him a “snitch” Wednesday. Kornbluh was escorted to safety by police, but no arrests were made on either night — though Kornbluh says he will press charges against the on-air personality.

Meanwhile, McCall and Attorney Sanford Rubinstein say they have asked the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office to open a hate crime investigation into Tischler, who has been captured on video using discriminatory and sexist slurs to describe First Lady Chirlane McCray.

Tischler, for his part, has claimed protection under the First Amendment, and says Kornbluh’s claims that he was attacked are untrue, despite video evidence of the assault.

“FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” he tweeted Thursday.

borough park
Talk show personality Heshy Tishler organized a demonstration against the new COVID-19 restrictions limiting religious gatherings in COVID-19 hotspots.Photo by Todd Maisel

McCall also pointed to the disparities in policing at the Borough Park protests — where a handful of officers, mostly from the Community Affairs and Rapid Response units, have policed the events in their everyday uniforms — to the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, which often drew hundreds of officers in riot gear and body armor, who often violently arrested protesters for blocking roadways and sidewalks. 

“It’s a huge disparity,” McCall said. “They have come many times to our rallies and enforced social distancing as soon as we start to protest, they have enforced it. So if they can do it in Brownsville and Bed-Stuy and East New York they should do it in Borough Park and Williamsburg.”

Tuesday and Wednesday’s protests were held in opposition to the city and state’s new COVID-19 restrictions in Borough Park — one of nine ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens where COVID-19 rates have surged in recent weeks.