Several people have been fined more than $5,000 each for attending an illegal religious gathering in Melbourne’s inner south-east early on Tuesday morning.
The gathering took place amid Victoria’s state-wide lockdown where a strict 9am-5pm daily curfew has been imposed in Melbourne.
Members of an Orthodox Jewish congregation entered a Ripponlea Synagogue at around 5am on Tuesday morning and said they wouldn’t leave until the evening, The Age reported.
The worshippers came together to mark Jewish New Year. Police had been in the immediate area since 4:30pm and blocked two lanes behind the synagogue.
When the doors finally opened at around 8:20pm, less than 10 people emerged, according to The Age.
Video footage shows worshippers causing a scene, confronting media and police.
— Cassie Morgan (@cassieemorgan) September 7, 2021
A local business owner also told ABC Radio he saw as many as 40 people coming in and out of the synagogue.
All adults who attended the gathering will be issued with a $5,452 fine, Victoria Police said.
Worshippers clash with police
Victoria Police have not only dealt fines to attendees but are also investigating an alleged assault of a Nine news camera operator who is now being treated in hospital for a suspected concussion.
The assault allegedly occurred after attendees left the synagogue and clashed with police and media.
“Victoria Police has spoken to a number of people who attended an address on Glen Eira Road, Elsternwick on Tuesday 7 September,” Victoria Police told Yahoo Finance in a statement.
“A number of children who were present will not be fined.
“Investigators believe a number of other people were present and are yet to be spoken to by police. Investigators are working to identify them.”
Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp strongly condemned the gathering.
"I don't know what planet these people live on,” Capp told Today on Wednesday morning.
"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."
Labor MP Josh Burns described the gathering as “deeply frustrating”.
"I know that this pandemic has taken its toll, and I know that everyone is desperate to get back together," Burns said. "But we all need to dig deep and do the right thing."
Just weeks ago, more than $300,000 in fines were dealt to 56 attendees who went to an illegal engagement party. The gathering was condemned by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews who said it could have been a potential “superspreader event”.