Haverstraw police, Rockland DA investigating man's antisemitic rant at public meeting
Haverstraw police and the Rockland County District Attorney's Office are now investigating a Rockland man's violent, antisemitic statements at a Haverstraw meeting.
Authorities are trying to determine whether the man's comments recorded Wednesday night are a threat and if any laws were broken.
The rant sparked outrage after the man reportedly spoke about running people of Jewish faith over in the street.
"A certain sect of people tends to walk in the street, and nobody is wearing any reflective gear. So, if I run one of them over, and, of course, I'm going to back over them again," the man is heard saying about a growing Orthodox Jewish community presence in town.
Collin Dunner has called Haverstraw homes for years, but for the first time, he says his young daughter asked if it was safe to play outside due to the incident.
"My little ones -- they go bike riding almost every day after school -- my two boys and girl -- and they said, ‘Is it safe to go?’ and I said maybe don't go today...like that's sad," he says.
The comments were also enough for Avi Erblich's family to second guess where they call home.
"After my wife saw that video, she was extremely distraught and was really worried and you know she was considering...do we need to move out or you know get protection or whatever it may be because this is an actual threat," says Erblich.
But the message Friday during a press conference with local officials is louder than Wednesday's spiteful speech.
"This was completely a misrepresentation of the community and the people of Haverstraw and to say that we will not allow this type of hate speech to occur," says Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips.
While police and the Rockland County district attorney look for possible crimes within the video, the man has been banned from speaking at all town board meetings.
"If he wants to call my office and say, ‘I would like to apologize and ask for forgiveness for the statements I made,’ I think that would be a very good step to healing what he said on Wednesday night," says Phillips.
Residents echo that message as well.
"To try and get to learn about the Jewish Community and maybe work together and build some kind of relationship, I think that would be a good idea. I really don't want to confuse one specific incident with the majority, because the majority really does get along well," says Erblich.
Support is pouring in from all angles - even Attorney General Letitia James is offering the town a helping hand as the DA and police review the video to decide next steps.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council posted the video, which immediately sparked collective condemnation from local and state officials.
Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted, "...Antisemitism is horrifying and unacceptable. Everyone has the right to walk down the street without fear. New York, we are better than this."
Town of Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips issued a statement which reads in part, "The Town of Haverstraw has always been a true melting pot of multiple cultures. We have never tolerated hate speech, nor will we."
On Facebook, Rockland County Executive Ed Day also condemned the incident saying in part, "This discourse is utterly ignorant and hateful and on behalf of the vast majority of the good people of Rockland, I condemn it in no uncertain terms."
State Sen. James Skoufis also condemned the comments, saying on Twitter, "Those comments were disgusting, shameful, and have no place in the community."
The Haverstraw town supervisor told News 12 unless he comes to apologize, the man who made the antisemetic comments will be prohibited from attending any future town meetings.