(PatriotWise.com) — A historic synagogue in Brooklyn was the site of a fight between a group of young worshippers and the NYPD this week after a bizarre community dispute over the discovery of a secret underground tunnel, the Associated Press reported.
The incident erupted at the global headquarters of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on Monday.
According to synagogue officials and worshipers, a group of young men in the community secretly constructed an underground passage to the sanctuary. When Chabad-Lubavitch leaders tried to seal off the tunnel on Monday, the young men staged a protest that quickly turned violent, prompting police to make several arrests.
The purpose of the tunnel remains a subject of debate. However, it is believed the tunnel started in the basement of a vacant building behind the headquarters, traveling under a series of lecture halls and offices before connecting to the synagogue, according to Chabad spokesman Motti Seligson.
Seligson described the tunnel’s construction as an act of vandalism by a rogue group of misguided “extremists,” who then vandalized the sanctuary “to preserve their unauthorized access.”
While Chabad officials declined to say when the tunnel was discovered, several worshipers said rumors about the tunnel’s existence had been spreading throughout the community for several weeks.
The conflict came to a head on Monday when a truck carrying cement arrived at the headquarters to seal off the opening to the tunnel.
The young men staged a protest, tearing off the synagogue’s wooden siding.
According to the NYPD, officers were called to headquarters that afternoon to respond to reports of trespassing and property damage. Police pleaded with the protesters for several hours, asking them to leave the tunnel entrance. When they refused, police concealed the area with a white curtain and began detaining the protesters.
In response, the other protesters began jeering and hurling things at the NYPD. One officer appeared to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
In total, nine people, all between the ages of 19 and 22, were arrested on charges including reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and obstructing governmental administration.
On Wednesday, New York City’s Department of Buildings issued a vacate order for the headquarters due to structural stability issues in surrounding buildings caused by the excavation of the unauthorized tunnel.
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