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Joseph Borgen, Brutally Beaten By Group Of Suspects In Manhattan's Diamond District, Speaks Out: 'My Whole Face Felt Like It Was On Fire For Hours'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Jewish man was attacked Thursday in the Diamond District, as pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters clashed in Times Square.

Police said a group of five to six men attacked the 29-year-old victim around 6:30 p.m. on Broadway near West 49th Street.

The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating some of the incidents in the area.

CBS2's Alice Gainer spoke to one man who was beaten on the ground.

"My whole face... felt like it was on fire for hours," Joseph Borgen said.

A bruised Borgen says that's him on the ground in disturbing video showing a violent attack by a group of men. Police said they also used an anti-Semitic slur during the attack.

"They were macing me for like a minute straight," he said. "Kicked me, punched me, beat me with crutches, hit me with flags."

He says he's bruised all over and has a concussion.

Watch Alice Gainer's report -- 

Borgen was alone, on his way to attend a pro-Israel rally at 47th and Seventh - the same one he says he attended last week.

"Wore my yarmulke, wore my kippah," he said. "I never made it to the rally. By 48th street I saw someone start chasing me from behind, and next thing you know, before I could react, I was surrounded by a crowd... they were making anti-Jewish comments."

The 29-year-old was taken to Bellevue and released and is now recovering at home with his loving dog Roman.

The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating. After canvasing the area and looking at security video, police arrested 23-year-old Wasseem Awawdeh of Brooklyn for using a crutch to assault Borgen. He's facing assault as a hate crime, gang assault and weapons charges.

They're still looking for the others.

"It's absolutely disgusting and unacceptable," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday. "We have had a man viciously beaten simply because he appeared to some individuals to be Jewish. We had folks throwing very potent fireworks and creating harm to others and burning some folk, at least one person. This is unacceptable."

The mayor urged New Yorkers to call police if they have any information about the incident.

"What happened last night is absolutely unacceptable. There is no place for anti-Semitism in York City. We will not tolerate it. My message is very clear. Anyone who commits such an act is going to be arrested and prosecuted," he said.

The mayor, other city leaders and police officials met with Jewish community leaders at City Hall on Friday to explain what the city is doing to keep the community safe.

Police sources say an M-80 blast in Times Square last night injured a 55-year-old woman who suffered burns to her back. It's unclear if she was part of the protest or walking by.

1258-21 HCTF Assault 5-21-21
Police are searching for an individual accused of throwing an explosive device in Times Square on May 20, 2021, burning a 55-year-old woman. (Credit: NYPD Crime Stoppers)

Police have released photos of a man they're looking for in connection with that attack, which is being treated as a hate crime.

Dozens of others were taken into police custody after pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli brawlers squared off in Times Square Thursday night, throwing objects and other projectiles.

Borgen says despite what happened won't deter him from attending any future rallies.

"We all want peace. We all want to get along. We all want to be on the same page. Violence is never the answer," he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to help the NYPD with the investigation.

"I unequivocally condemn these brutal attacks on visibly Jewish New Yorkers and we will not tolerate anti-Semitic violent gang harassment and intimidation," he said in a statement. "New York is the vibrant and dynamic home for people from around the world. This tapestry makes New York the extraordinary place that it is. Those of all faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities must be able to walk the streets safely and free from harassment and violence."

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the attack, saying "violence is absolutely unacceptable."

Anyone with information about the beating is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit a tip via their website or on Twitter, @NYPDTips. All calls are kept confidential.

CBS2's Alice Gainer and Dick Brennan contributed to this report.

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