Assemblyman Dov Hikind broke through police barriers and physically confronted a small group of protesters carrying anti-Semitic signs in Brooklyn Monday.
The five protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas drew an angry reaction from several hundred Orthodox Jews as they gathered in a small pen of police barricades outside Chabad of Kensington on Ocean Parkway in Midwood.
As one of the Christian protesters, Shirley Phelps-Roper, was talking to reporters, Hikind, burst through the barricade and tried to knock the signs out of her hands. He was restrained by police and moved away but then turned back to grab at the signs again before being escorted back to a counter-protest area, some 50 feet away. (Video here.)
“You’re a whore,” Hikind said as he was again led away, but not arrested. "Be very careful the rest of your day in Brooklyn."
Phelps-Roper responded "criminal behavior does not change God."
A daughter of Westboro Pastor Fred Phelps, Phelps-Roper was wearing a shirt that read “The Jews Killed Jesus” and holding signs with slogans such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” She also wore a green headband that said “Destruction is Imminent.” Another protestor held a sign that said "Your rabbi is a whore."
“When people come to the heart of the Jewish community with this kind of message, that we’re responsible for killing Jesus, that they hate Israel, that the Holocaust was something the Jews deserved, it’s important to be here,” said Hikind, the son of Holocaust survivors, at the Chabad protest before the Westboro group arrived.
“Do you react to ant-Semites? I believe you do, but you don’t have to get into a confrontation.”
Hikind, who brought his two sons to the protest, apparently changed his mind when the protesters arrived and waved their signs.
The Westboro chuch has been successfully sued for defamation, infliction of emotional harm and invasion of privacy by the family of a soldier who died in Iraq; the group picketed at the soldier’s funeral, prompting the lawsuit. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the church arguing that the protest was protected by the First Amendment.