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Hundreds of Hasidic Jews surrounded a Brooklyn police station Tuesday night, chanting "No justice - no peace," lighting bonfires, and eventually torching a police car.
They were protesting the arrest of Arthur Schick, owner of Schick's Bakery, who was pulled over for talking on his cellular phone while driving. According to police, Schick became uncooperative and was arrested. Two men who intervened as he was being put into a police van were also arrested.
Sariel Widawsky, co-owner of Schick's Bakery, said that as soon as Schick stepped out of his car, police officers pushed him up against the vehicle and placed his hands behind his back. "People saw what the police were doing to a 70-to-80-year-old man and started screaming at police to leave him alone," she told the New York Times.
"They literally threw him down into the van," Mr. Widawsky continued. "He fell on the first step. They picked him up and manhandled him into the van."
Police refused to comment on the accusations of excessive force.
News of the arrests spread quickly through the tight-knit Hassidic community, and residents took to the streets to protest.
Riot police officers dispersed the crowds, which were largely calm by 9:30 p.m.
Protesters created two large bonfires out of discarded cardboard, and later torched a police car.
Borough Park's Hassidic population has had their share of tense relations with the police. Several hundred residents poured into the street in 1999 to protest the fatal shooting of a mentally disturbed man, who was fired upon at least 12 times when he threatened neighbors with a hammer.
Arthur Schick was charged with obstructing governmental administration. The two men who tried to intervene in his arrest were charged with disorderly conduct and assault, respectively.