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Worshippers who flouted Melbourne‘s lockdown laws to celebrate Jewish New Year were breaching coronavirus restrictions for months by pretending to be an Alcoholics Anonymous mental health group, a local MP claims.
Police issued more than 100 fines each worth $5,452 after a series of Rosh Hashanah services were held in breach of public health orders on Tuesday night.
Some worshippers confronted police and others fled on rooftops after as many as 30 people gathered for a celebration at the orthodox Adass Israel Synagogue on Glen Eira Avenue in Ripponlea in Melbourne’s south-east.
Six worshippers from that service were been fined $5,452 for breaching lockdown.
Deputy Victorian Opposition leader David Southwick claimed worshippers at the temple were ‘untouchable for months’ by operating under the guise of a mental health group, which allows up to 10 people to gather at once.
Police speak to worshippers (pictured) at a Jewish New Year’s celebration at the Adass Israel Synagogue in Ripponlea, Melbourne, on Tuesday
‘My understanding is they were operating under an AA-type meeting and mental health group that allows you to have 10 people congregate at a time,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘[Health officials] did not have enforceability powers because that group were operating in a certain guise.’
Mr Southwick said he wrote to worshippers in the months leading up to Jewish New Year asking them not to congregate during lockdown.
‘[This] was not a new situation with this particular group, this group has been involved for some time in a number of activities,’ he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also pleaded with worshippers to follow lockdown rules in the days leading up to Tuesday’s end-of-year celebrations, which is a major event on the Jewish calendar.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has cast its shadow over all our lives and kept us from the rites and gatherings we yearn to celebrate,’ he said last week.
‘I know this year your celebrations will once again be subdued but I have faith that you will find inspiration and sweetness in these days of awe, as the sound of the shofar echoes in your hearts.’
One news cameraman was allegedly assaulted and taken to hospital with a concussion after Tuesday’s confrontation in Ripponlea.
A gathering celebrating Jewish New Year in Melbourne ended with fiery scenes and police moving in to shut down the event and issuing $5,452 fines to ‘all adults’ who attended (men near the synagogue in Ripponlea, pictured)
Up to 30 people are now believed to have attended the Rosh Hashanah celebration at a Ripponlea synagogue in Melbourne ‘s south-east, which is pictured
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett told worshippers who were yet to come forward to turn themselves in.
He vowed to hunt down every adult who was inside the synagogue and fine them.
‘I’m appalled,’ he said on Wednesday morning. ‘Come forward, identify yourself. My instruction to my investigators today is every person at the gathering will receive a penalty notice.’
Supporters were pictured standing outside the Adass Israel Synagogue of Melbourne on Tuesday night as the Rosh Hashanah celebrations continued inside.
There was initially believed to be 100 people inside, but police downscaled the estimated number to around 30 on Wednesday.
Police guarded every exit from the synagogue to swoop on worshippers as they left, but many instead took to the roofs of nearby buildings to escape.
Victoria’s Deputy Leader of the Opposition David Southwick. He said he had personally written to worshippers in the months leading up to Jewish New Year asking them not to congregate during lockdown
The tense standoff between Victorian police and worshippers (pictured) spilled into abuse and claims of anti-Semitism as police moved in to disperse the gathering. Police later issued a statement saying ‘all adults’ in attendance would receive a $5,452 fine
Assistant Commissioner Barrett added: ‘The best approach was to wait and try and contact the people inside and negotiate with them to come out.
‘If you were there yesterday and have not spoken to police, you should come forward.’
Police also confirmed they were investigating the assault of a 45 year old TV news cameraman about 7pm.
‘All the media there were calm and listening to police direction. There was a crowd in the laneway that were making much more of a fuss,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘But the crowd kept antagonising us. They were saying ‘stop filming us’. I was then attacked, struck to the top of my head.’
The illegal service was condemned by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria on Wednesday.
‘The actions of a few do not represent the vast majority of our community who have celebrated Rosh Hashanah at home only with the people with whom they live, and just like the wider community, continue to follow the rules,’ it said in a statement.
The condemnation of the gathering by Jewish community leaders was welcomed by Victoria premier Dan Andrews (pictured)
A group of mask-wearing men pass police near one of the gatherings on Tuesday night (pictured)
The condemnation was welcomed by Premier Dan Andrews.
‘I understand this has been a difficult year for lots of people… if you break the rules we will be in lockdown longer,’ he said.
‘I have not seen the footage and I do not want to cast aspersions on any groups or any section of our community.
‘The Jewish community called out that behaviour and were very quick to do it and I am very grateful to Jewish leaders for doing that.’
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said she was astounded at the huge illegal service.
‘I don’t know what planet these people live on,’ she said. ‘We are a city that has been in lockdown for more days than any other city around the world.
‘It seems that there are some people that are determined to be selfish and to flout the restrictions.
‘It is just not fair that some members of the community feel that they can flout the rules and get away with it.
‘We are grateful to the police and the community for raising these issues so that we can get on top of them and we can really help people remain unified around our ultimate quest to open and to stay open.’
The main illegal gathering occurred at Adass Israel Synagogue in Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea in inner Melbourne during a Jewish New Year celebration
Police come face to face with worshippers from Jewish New Year celebrations at the orthodox Adass Israel Synagogue in Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea on Tuesday night
A second, smaller illegal prayer group assembled for Jewish New Year was also dispersed by police from an apartment above the Ripponlea IGA supermarket, also on Glen Eira Avenue.
Police were understood to have been made aware of the illegal gatherings on Tuesday morning and reports indicated they waited for people to exit the celebrations during the day.
But tensions grew as worshippers and their supporters confronted police in the early evening.
Two worshippers climbed onto a nearby roof around 6pm as the confrontations ignited with some supporters heard abusing police and accusing media and health authorities of anti-Semitism.
Police moved in to end the standoff after 8pm on Tuesday.
Witnesses said supporters chanted, pushed cameras, and yelled insults at media who assembled as news of the standoff spread on Tuesday afternoon.
Police shut down the illegal gathering on Tuesday night after waiting for the attendees to disperse during the day
Victorian police speak with worshippers outside an illegal gathering to celebrate Jewish New Year at Ripponlea on Tuesday night
Jewish New Year celebrations, known as Rosh Hashanah, commenced on September 6 and lasted until the evening of September 8. They are mostly observed privately during the lockdown.
It is understood people began gathering the Adass synagogue on Monday evening, setting up for a major event.
A witness claimed to have seen two groups of ’20 to 30′ people without masks entering the synagogue.
‘I just think this behaviour from anyone in society at this time is just appalling, it’s disgusting really because small businesses are already hurting, and this is just extending what’s already happening,’ passer-by Steve Davis told 9News.
Victorian Police said all adults who attended would be issued with a $5,452 fine, but the children who were present would not be.
‘Investigators believe a number of other people were present and are yet to be spoken to by police. Investigators are working to identify them,’ it said.
Victoria Police broke up two Jewish New Year celebrations that took place on Tuesday in breach of Covid restrictions
A family is pictured near the synagogue in Ripponlea, which was the site of a standoff between worshippers and police
Around 100 Jewish New Year worshippers held illegal gatherings (pictured) and refused to comply with police directions
VICTORIA’S STATEWIDE LOCKDOWN – ALL THE RESTRICTIONS YOU NEED TO KNOW
A lockdown for regional Victoria applies August 21 with restrictions in line with Melbourne minus the curfew.
A curfew for those in Melbourne only includes:
Between 9:00pm and 5:00am, you cannot leave your home (or the home of your intimate partner or bubble buddy) except for limited reasons including:
– authorised work
– health and medical purposes
– care and support of a child or someone with special needs
– in an emergency or to escape harm
Across Victoria you cannot leave your home other than for one of the five following reasons:
– shopping for necessary goods and services
– caregiving or compassionate reasons, including medical care or to get a COVID-19 test
– authorised work (with a permit) or permitted education
– exercise (once a day for 2 hours, no more than 5km from where you live)
– to get a COVID-19 vaccination
Victorians may also leave home to visit their intimate partner, their single social bubble buddy, or in an emergency – including those at risk of family violence.
You must stay within 5km of your home for shopping and exercise. This limit does not apply to permitted work or education, when giving or receiving care, getting a COVID-19 vaccination or visiting an intimate partner or your single social bubble buddy.
Residents of Metropolitan Melbourne must not travel to regional Victoria other than for permitted reasons. These include:
– for authorised work or permitted education
– to visit an intimate partner
– for care and compassionate reasons
– to access COVID-19 vaccination provided it is to the closest facility where vaccination can be obtained, or
– to access necessary good and services provided this is to the closest facility where these can be obtained.
Face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors whenever you leave your home.
Public gatherings are not allowed across the state.
Childcare will be limited to only essential workers and vulnerable families using a permit system that was used in 2020.
Children at primary school are also asked to wear masks but this is not mandatory.
Weddings cannot proceed and funerals are capped at 10 attendees.
Across the state construction sites will only be allowed to have 25 per cent of their workers on site.
Essential shops remain open. Cafes and pubs will be able to remain open for takeaway only.
Source: Daily Mail