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Attacker yells, ‘Kanye 2024’ during antisemitic assault, police say

The rapper formerly known as Kanye West. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
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The New York Police Department is investigating an alleged attack in Central Park this week in which a man in his mid-40s assaulted a 63-year-old man and spewed antisemitic comments before yelling out, “Kanye 2024,” a reference to rapper Ye’s recent antisemitic rhetoric.

The older man was walking in Central Park about 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday when the other man allegedly hit him from behind, according to police. When the older man fell to the ground, he broke his hand and chipped a tooth, authorities said.

The attacker then uttered “numerous” antisemitic comments toward the man, according to police. Before the attacker fled on a bicycle — with a trailer featuring a sign reading “Hungry Disabled” — police say he referenced the artist formerly known as Kanye West, who has issued several antisemitic tirades, saying “Kanye 2024.”

The 63-year-old man, who has not been publicly identified, was hospitalized in stable condition, police said.

Antisemitic attacks in the United States are at an all-time high. An audit released in April by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) showed that 2,717 antisemitic incidents were reported to the organization in 2021. That total represents the highest number of incidents since the ADL started tracking antisemitic attacks in 1979 — and a 34 percent increase from 2020.

The incidents, the ADL said, include “criminal and noncriminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs, as well as vandalism and assault.”

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Antisemitic attacks have spiked in New York, with an increase of 125 percent last month compared with November 2021, according to data released by the NYPD and reported by the New York ABC affiliate. This month, the NYPD arrested a man who was accused of firing a BB gun at a Jewish father and son outside a kosher supermarket in Staten Island, CBS reported. In another incident, an online threat to attack a New York synagogue, two men — one of whom is Jewish — were indicted by a grand jury, according to CNN.

New York City Council member Gale A. Brewer (D), whose district includes Central Park, denounced the antisemitic attack in an interview with The Washington Post.

“This attack was particularly awful,” Brewer said, noting that it was a physical and verbal assault. “It was horrible on all levels.”

Federal officials recently suggested that this surge of antisemitism is not going away, in part, because of a rise in hate speech and disinformation about Jews on Twitter that is uniting and popularizing some extremists who have helped push people to engage in violent protests.

Surging Twitter antisemitism unites fringe, encourages violence, officials say

One person who has come to represent some of that extremism is Ye, who was recently suspended from Twitter after the rapper tweeted an image of a swastika blended in with a star of David. Ye faced another round of condemnation after he praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis in an interview with far-right provocateur Alex Jones this month. That came after he dined with former president Donald Trump alongside white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes last month.

“I like Hitler,” Ye told Jones. The rapper later added, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”

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The Wednesday attack in Central Park was quickly condemned by the ADL and others fighting the rise in antisemitism in the United States.

“This is yet another example that Ye’s unhinged antisemitic remarks and his doubling down on them again and again can lead to violence and incite others to act,” Scott Richman, the regional director for the ADL in New York and New Jersey, said in a statement to The Post. “When public figures with huge platforms fan the flames of antisemitism, people will copy it and begin to think it’s normal.”

The attacker was last seen around Washington Square Park, the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force tweeted. The NYPD described him as a man with a light complexion who was last seen wearing a brown jacket, multicolored hat and beige pants. Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the man, who remained at large early Saturday.

Michelle Boorstein, Isaac Arnsdorf and Joseph Menn contributed to this report.