Melbourne synagogue rule-breakers ‘climbed roofs’ to dodge police, fines grow

Six people have so far been slapped with $5452 fines each for illegally gathering at a Melbourne synagogue where some rule-breakers climbed roofs to dodge police.

The ultra-Orthodox group is believed to have gathered to mark Jewish New Year, entering the Ripponlea synagogue about 5am yesterday and refusing to leave until nightfall in a 14-hour standoff.

Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said more fines were expected to be issued over the coming days after up to 30 people breached lockdown restrictions.

Victoria Police at a synagogue in Melbourne. (Nine)

“My instruction to my investigators today is every person at the gathering will receive a penalty notice (aside from children),” he said.

Victoria Police manned the exits of the synagogue, anticipating the exit of the rule-breakers inside.

But a number of people allegedly fled the scene by climbing over “neighbouring roofs” in an attempt to evade police.

Police did not break into the synagogue as a number of children were understood to be present.

“The best approach was to wait and try and contact the people inside and negotiate with them to come out,” Assistant Commissioner Barrett said.

“I’m appalled, to be fair.”

A number of other people at the gathering are yet to be spoken to by police, with investigators working to identify them.

“If you were there yesterday and have not spoken to police, you should come forward,” Assistant Commissioner Barrett said.

A news camera operator was injured during the clash with worshippers and is recovering in hospital.

Police confirmed they were investigating the alleged assault of the cameraman.

“The victim, a 45-year-old man, was assaulted by an unknown man outside a property on Glen Eira Road about 7pm,” a Victoria Police statement read.

“The investigation is ongoing.”

Premier Daniel Andrews today said the incident where the cameraman was injured involved “appalling, appalling conduct”.

Daniel Andrews
Daniel Andrews condemned the gathering at the syngagogue. (Nine)

Mr Andrews slammed the decision to convene.

“This is very bad behaviour,” he said.

“It is just not smart. It prolongs the lockdown and it potentially puts people in hospital.”

“Let’s hope we don’t see people getting very, very unwell as a result of those choices.”

Mr Andrews thanked Jewish community leaders who had called out the illegal conduct.

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor slammed those gathering at the synagogue as “selfish”.

The Ripponlea synagogue. (Nine)

Speaking to Today this morning, Sally Capp said she was shocked by the scenes.

“I don’t know what planet these people live on,” Ms Capp said.

“We are a city that has been in lockdown for more days than any other city around the world.

“The need for ongoing diligence and for us to be united in reducing the spread of this virus and getting ourselves out of lockdown continues. And we need everybody to make that commitment.”

The Lord Mayor praised the community for “really calling out this sort of behaviour”.

“It seems that there are some people that are determined to be selfish and to flout the restrictions,” Ms Capp said.

“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.”

A man looked like he was setting up for an event inside the synagogue. (9News)

The activity follows reports that a large group of maskless men and children gathered at another synagogue in the same street on Monday night after curfew.

A witness filmed footage of the mostly mask-less group pouring through temporary fencing and into the Adass Israel building.

Steve Davis was walking past when he noticed the congregation appearing as though they were setting up for an event.

Police surrounded the synagogue and waited for worshippers to leave. (9News)
Police flooded Ripponlea after word of the gathering spread. (Nine)

“It would have been 20 to 30 and then another 20 to 30 coming and going as I was there waiting for the police to come,” he said.

“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.”

Sundown on Monday represented the beginning of Jewish New Year celebrations.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria declared its disapproval of gathering in breach of lockdown prior to the beginning of the celebrations.

A video on the council’s website tells viewers: “This Roshanah we need to stay home and celebrate only with the poeple we live with.”

At the time, Mr Aghion said the community was disappointed at the breach of restrictions and that the community as a whole had been very compliant with the lockdown.

“The community itself has been doing the hard yards,” he said.

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