Nine men were arrested in Brooklyn, New York, when they tried to prevent city officials from shoring up an illegal tunnel under what The New York Times referred to “one of the most important religious sites in New York City.”
The tunnel’s origins have so far remained something of a mystery. The Times was unable to report either “how the tunnel was built” or what its creators’ goal was.
Even the lawyer for the men who were arrested had nothing to say about its digging, only saying that the men arrested — all in their late teens or early 20s, according to the outlet — weren’t charged with crimes related to the tunnel’s origin, but were instead “driven by activism” to prevent officials from damaging it.
“Students can get a little bit enthused once in a while,” he said. “We see that going on on campuses all across the country.”
The Australian shared video of the tunnel in a post to X.
Young Hasidic men clashed with the police over the secret tunnel in a historic synagogue that houses the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitcher movement in Brooklyn: https://t.co/WOs0l2zXaq pic.twitter.com/turH8NFORN
— The Australian (@australian) January 11, 2024
The tunnel was “about 60 feet long and 8 feet across,” the Times reported, but lacked reinforcement that would protect two building above it, city officials said.
The owners of the property, the “global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitcher Hasidic movement,” received two citations because the tunnel construction had been done without a permit and were required by Department of Buildings inspectors to evacuate parts of the building until the tunnel could be shored up.
Investigation into the complex of interconnected buildings that comprised the synagogue known locally as 770, after its address of 770 Eastern Parkway, has been ongoing all week, after a group of students who wanted to maintain the tunnel protested the arrival of a cement truck carrying materials to reinforce it.
“Some students used crowbars to try to damage a wall of a prayer space that led to the tunnel, sat in the open wall to try to prevent it from being filled and skirmished with police officers who had been called in, according to legal documents and videos from the scene,” the Times reported.
Five of the students arrested were later released on their own recognizance, three having been charged with obstructing police officers and two others with criminal mischief and obstructing government administration.
The other four arrested had apparently not yet been arraigned.
“In a statement Thursday morning, a spokesman for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement said that concrete was poured into the areas of concern ‘to shore up the damaged walls,’ in coordination with city inspectors,” according to the Times.
“This episode has been deeply painful for us and the entire Jewish community,” spokesman Rabbi Motti Seligson told the Times.
Some members of the Hasidic Jewish community theorized to the Times that those who had dug the tunnel were more extreme followers of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whom they believe to be the Messiah.
Whoever constructed the tunnel, it was done “in open defiance of the mainstream Lubavitcher leadership,” the Times reported.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.