A group of Jewish worshipers have been arrested in the middle of a fight with the Police over a tunnel secretly dug in the side of a historic synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, which triggered a confrontation between police officers and those who were trying to defend the hitherto hidden passage.

The discovery of the secret tunnel at the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights yesterday prompted an emergency structural inspection by the New York City Council. The building, located at 770 Eastern Parkway, was once the home of the movement’s leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Its Gothic-style fa├žade is immediately recognizable to followers of the Jewish Chabad movement. In fact, replicas of the revered building have been built all over the world. Motti Seligson, a Chabad spokesman, explained that a “group of extremist students” had secretly breached the walls of a vacant building behind the headquarters, creating an underground passage under a row of office and classroom buildings that connected to the synagogue. .

The property manager brought in a construction crew Monday to fix the damaged walls, leading to a clash with those who wanted the walkway to remain.

A Police Department spokesperson said officers were called to the building Monday afternoon to respond to a group of people trespassing and damaging a wall. Video recorded by witnesses showed police confronting young people who were in a hollow space inside a brick wall. After the officers pulled one of the men out of the dusty crevice, a group of onlookers can be seen pushing the officers, knocking over wooden desks and scattering prayer books. One of the officers appears to launch an irritant spray at the group.

The police later reported that 10 people were arrested for crimes of damage and trespassing and one for obstruction of Public Administration. What has not been clear is when the tunnel was built or what it was for. As inspectors from the city’s building safety agency assessed the damage yesterday, a group of police officers stood behind fences surrounding the headquarters, preventing a line of young people from entering the building.

New York City Fire Department spokeswoman Amanda Farinacci said she had received an anonymous tip last month. But when a fire prevention team went to the scene, they verified that all exits were operational and complied with regulations, Farinacci said. The building is now closed pending a structural safety review.