Police Break Up Hasidic Jewish Funerals in NYC: 'These Gatherings Must Cease' amid Pandemic

Police were able to disperse the crowds on Sunday using sirens and a pre-recorded message over the PA system on social distancing

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Police in New York City had to be called in to help disperse dozens of mourners who crowded the streets in Brooklyn for multiple funerals within the Hasidic Jewish community amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The large gatherings directly defied an executive order from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that canceled all non-essential gatherings and urged anyone in public to remain at least six feet away from others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“The NYPD needs all New Yorkers to cooperate with the ban on social gatherings in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is important to note that the vast majority are following all guidelines,” an NYPD spokesperson tells PEOPLE. “The NYPD will continue to enforce social distancing and any large gathering — including services — put both members of the public and officers at risk. These gatherings must cease immediately.”

The funerals took place in the Borough Park and Williamsburg neighborhoods on Sunday, according to the New York Post and Gothamist.

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NYPD officers had not been made aware of the events, and received word of them from concerned members of the public, PEOPLE has learned.

The NYPD responded, and officers were able to disperse the crowds using sirens and by playing a pre-recorded message explaining the importance of social distancing over a PA system. No summonses were issued, PEOPLE has confirmed.

Video shared to Facebook of one of the funerals shows dozens of mourners — many wearing face masks — flooding the streets as police sirens wail and an officer says, “This is not six feet!” over the PA system.

One mourner can be seen approaching the cop car to offer apologies in the video, though the crowds largely drown out the sounds with readings of their own.

Gov. Cuomo appeared to address the gatherings at a briefing on Monday, CW affiliate WPIX reported.

“Now is not the time to play frisbee with your friends at the park. Now is not the time to go to a funeral with 200 people,” the Cuomo said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also reportedly weighed in, saying that while it was “not easy for people to give up traditions, especially when they’re in mourning,” large gatherings would not be tolerated, Gothamist noted.

The Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus; Jewish neighborhoods like Borough Park and Midwood had the highest number of cases in Brooklyn, Gothamist reported, citing recent city data.

Rabbi Abe Friedman told the outlet that there have been at least 300 coronavirus deaths over the last 10 days in the Orthodox communities of Brooklyn, Rockland County and Orange County.

Houses of worship have not been ordered closed per Cuomo’s executive order, though the governor “strongly” recommended no congregate services be held.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been 131,239 cases and 4,758 deaths attribute to coronavirus in New York, according to The New York Times. In the United States, there have been 357,036 cases and 10,522 deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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