Police say people climbed over roofs to evade officers after Melbourne gathering that breached COVID orders
Police have fined a number of people in outback Melbourne and are investigating an alleged attack on a religious gathering that violated public health regulations.
Most important points:
- A resident who filmed the meeting says he saw a blatant disregard for lockdown rules
- Victoria Police officers have fined six people and say more are likely to follow
- Individuals can be fined up to $5452 each for violating lockdown rules
Six adults have already been fined and police have called on people who attended the meeting to come forward and identify themselves.
Police say some community members distracted them, while others climbed neighboring rooftops to evade officers.
The video recorded last night shows a crowd of people gathered behind a synagogue in Ripponlea.
It is believed that the people attended a celebration on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah.
Police intervened to break up the event, leading to clashes and heated arguments outside the venue.
A news cameraman is also said to have been attacked while filming the meeting.
He was treated in hospital for a suspected concussion and police are investigating the alleged assault.
Community denounces ‘small group’ actions
Police Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said he was “appalled” by some of the behaviour.
He said that about 20 or 30 people reportedly attended, and that he was “very comfortable” with the police’s decision to wait outside the synagogue.
“We have gone through a process of peaceful negotiations. We have not forced entry to the property,” he said.
He said that while the police were busy with worshipers leaving the synagogue in the evening, another group of community members “came to the area, distracted the police from their role and made us move away from the door”.
“At that point, we now understand that members have left within the facility, some across neighboring rooftops, to escape the attention of the police,” he said.
He said the people who remained had been fined.
“My investigators will look not only at the people who were present at the site, but also what violations of the Chief Health Officer’s directions were caused or committed by those people who were present later in the evening,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Barrett said he expected more fines to be handed out today and tomorrow.
He said it was important to point out that people across the community are breaking health regulations.
“We saw it this week with a very prominent Instagram influencer,” he said.
He also said the police had been warned about the meeting by other members of the Jewish community.
“The vast majority of the Jewish community and many community leaders have spoken out against the actions of this small group,” Assistant Commissioner Barrett said.
Police said a number of children were present who would not be fined, and some of the people present had not yet been identified.
Local entrepreneur Steve Davis told ABC Radio Melbourne that he saw up to 40 people going in and out of the synagogue, in what he said was “blatant disregard for the rules”.
“Businesses are being crushed by lockdowns, and gatherings like this will only add to the misery for these mom and dad businesses that really can’t afford to be locked down for longer than necessary,” he said.
“It’s just not on.”
Local MPs urge community to ‘dig deep and do the right thing’
Josh Burns, federal Labor MP for Macnamara, has worked with state Liberal MP David Southwick to reach out to the community and contain local outbreaks.
He said the meeting was “very frustrating”.
“I know this pandemic has taken its toll and I know everyone is desperate to get back together,” he said.
“But we all need to dig deep and do the right thing.”
Mr Southwick, who has just been elected deputy leader of the Victorian Liberal Party, said: “When people break the rules, there must be consequences”.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said he understood it had been a difficult year for many Victorians but urged people to continue to follow the rules.
Victoria Police said its members remained in the Elsternwick area to respond to “possible CHO breaches”.
It’s not the first alleged violation of COVID-19 restrictions filmed and made public in the past week.
Four women, including social media personality Nadia Bartel, were collectively fined more than $21,000 for violating lockdown laws.
Ms. Bartel apologized to health professionals after a video surfaced of her and several friends gathering at a Richmond home on Thursday.
The four women were each fined $5,452 and investigations into drug abuse allegations continue.
Dozens of revelers who attended a Caulfield North engagement party were also fined last month for violating COVID-19 restrictions.
A number of people linked to the party later tested positive for COVID-19.