A gay black fashion student claims he was viciously beaten by a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews in what may be the latest case of the “knockout game” that’s raising both fear and racial tensions in New York.
Taj Patterson, a 22-year-old gay black man said he was attacked by a group of Jewish men in the Wiliamsburg section of Brooklyn. Photos of Patterson show his eye heavily bruised and shut. He suffered a broken eye socket and torn retina in the Dec. 1 beating.
“They came up behind me, they grabbed me, they punched me in the face, kicked me down, knocked me out,” Patterson told NBC New York on Tuesday. He said “about 15 to 20 Hasidic Jews” beat him.
The New York City College of Technology student told the Daily News that the men hurled racial slurs, including “Stay down, f-----!”
“I’m walking down some block by myself and then the next thing I know, I’m surrounded by a group of Hasidic Jewish men and they’re attacking me,” Patterson added to the Daily News. “I was alone. I was an easy target. I’m black. I’m gay, a whole slew of reasons.”
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The New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Unit is investigating the incident, which sent shock waves throughout the city and beyond.
Bus driver Evelyn Keys said she witnessed the gang assault.
“I get out of the bus and all these men were standing up straight around him,” she told the Daily News. “Taj is laying down on his back. I went up to him and he was in so much pain. He says, ‘I can’t see . . . I can’t breathe.’ ”
The attack against Patterson follows similar suspected “knockout game” incidents that appeared to target young white Jewish males in Brooklyn.
Laurie Cumbo, a black, incoming New York City councilwoman, stirred controversy when she said African-American resentment towards Jews is fueling the knockout game attacks, although she did not condone the incidents.
"Many African American/Caribbean residents expressed a genuine concern that as the Jewish community continues to grow, they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes,” Cumbo wrote on her Facebook page in a post that has since been deleted. She also apologized for her remarks.
Racial tension also appeared to be inflamed on the other side, with a New York State assemblyman calling the allegations made by Patterson “bizarre.”
Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew representing parts of Brooklyn, said the ultra-Orthodox Jews committing the type of attack described by Patterson “sounds so out of character.”
International Business Times reached out to Hikind, but a spokesman said he had no further comment on the situation. The spokesman added that Hikind was just responding to a question about the incident (Hikind doesn’t represent the same area of Brooklyn where Patterson’s attack occurred) and had no other information about the beating other than what’s been reported in the press.