Hasidic activists accosted a man who disrupted a rally by Satmar Hasidim endorsing New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, briefly detaining him inside a nearby Judaica store.
The careful stagecraft of the event went awry as one Hasidic speaker concluded praising Thompson and Satmar Hasidic community leader David Niederman took the podium. A man later identified as Zimmerman shouted criticisms of Niederman, the rally’s organizer. Onlookers quickly grabbed the man and shuffled him forcefully away from the gathering at the corner of Rodney Street and Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, the Satmar’s Brooklyn base, and into a store around the corner.
“This is wonderful,” Niederman said of the disruption, shortly before Zimmerman was hustled away. “Democracy is all about freedom.” “
Niederman is a leading figure in the larger of the two Satmar factions in Williamsburg, though Zimmerman’s criticism did not appear to be related to the dispute between the Satmar sects.
The men grabbed Zimmerman and shoved him into Bais Hasefer, a gifts and Judaica store on Lee Avenue around the corner from the rally. A large group of Hasidic men and reporters gathered around the storefront. Shouting could be heard inside the store, though it did not appear that Zimmerman was being harmed.
After a few moments, a man not dressed in traditional Satmar garb exited Bais Hasefer to demand that reporters stop photographing the incident.
“I’ll break your camera,” the man said to this reporter. He then flashed an identity card with what looked like a police seal in the corner. He declined to produce the card for further inspection, and later declined to identify himself.
When asked by this reporter if he was threatening him, the man said: “Yes.”
The man who had been hustled away was seen leaving Bais Hasefer on his own after roughly five minutes.
Bystanders asserted that the man, who later identified himself with the single name Zimmerman, was mentally ill. He appeared to be well known among the Williamsburg Satmars.
Before he was accosted, Zimmerman shouted that Niederman does “not represent traditional Jews.”
Approached after the rally, Zimmerman was exceptionally reserved. “We are traditional Jews and we are against the immorality,” he told the Forward.
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Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.