Offering a vocal alternative to what its organizers called the “shadow banning” on social media of conservative views, a Freedom Rally brought together roughly 250 supporters of President Trump in a Town of Hempstead parking lot between Irving Place and Neptune Avenue in Woodmere on Sunday. The event was also livestreamed.
Speakers including event coordinators Dr. Gila Jedwab and Michal Weinstein claimed that their freedoms have been usurped by what another speaker, Rabbi Michoel Green, called “Covid courtesies” — the wearing of masks and social distancing mandated amid the pandemic.
Weinstein said that the rally was organized to advocate for three things she and Jedwab believe in: Trump, freedom and cops, along with doing this “for our future.” “I think everyone has a right to speak — I think freedom of speech is the most important thing,” said Weinstein, a Woodmere resident who has a social event planning business in Cedarhurst. Rabbi Yitzchak Smith, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Lewis, of Connecticut, and former State Assemblyman Dov Hikind also spoke.
“All conservatives are pretty much fact-checked way more than the Democratic or the liberal side,” Weinstein said, “as well as the fact that they shadow ban a lot of influencers, including myself, where they have removed — they don’t allow my posts to be shown.”
Shadow banning, also known as stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting, is the blocking or partial blocking of content in an online community or platform so it is not obvious that a user has been banned. Instagram and Facebook have denied using shadow banning, and Twitter has written on its website that it does not shadow ban. There appear to be several sites and social media posts, however, that are devoted to getting around the so-called bans.
Jedwab, a Cedarhurst dentist, said that the rally was necessary to show support for freedoms she believes have been denied during the pandemic, such as praying when people want to, sending children to school instead of limiting them to remote learning, and gathering for weddings and funerals.
“But I think people have more common sense then the government is giving them credit for,” Jedwab said in support of larger gatherings, adding that she understands the health implications of such gatherings right now. “I think there comes a time when we have to choose faith over fear and live our lives. Common sense.”
Smith called the rally a “call to action” and said that when the media attention is focused on Jewish people, they should not shy away. “The world wants to know what are the Jewish people doing,” he said, noting that many yeshivas and synagogues have not closed.
Smith has written and spoken out against government-mandated social distancing. He was heckled at the rally by one man for his stance against masks, and later said, “No human being should be forced to wear a mask.” A good portion of the crowd was maskless.
The issue of masks nearly kept Hikind from speaking, because, he said, he disagreed with Smith. “It’s not the greatest sacrifice to wear a freakin’ mask,” Hikind said before going on to praise Trump and his accomplishments, highlighting the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and leading a number of chants of “Four more years!”
Lewis, who is Black, spoke of the bond between Black and Jewish people. “I look a little different than many of you but we are one,” he said. “When they come against the Jews, they come against me. We have to take the necessary action for our voices to be heard.” A few of Lewis’s statements drew applause.
Green echoed Jedwab’s and Weinstein’s sentiments that freedoms have been usurped during the pandemic and claimed that “religion is under attack.” “I am definitely voting for Donald Trump,” said Green, who also railed against “invasive” Covid-19 testing.