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No One Was In Danger During Westport Temple Israel Incident, President Says

Gregory Williams, 25, of New Haven was arrested after causing a disturbance at Temple Israel in Westport, police said. Photo Credit: Westport Police Department
Daniel Fischer, 25, of New Haven was arrested after causing a disturbance at Temple Israel in Westport, police said. Photo Credit: Westport Police Department

WESTPORT, Conn. -- The president of Temple Israel in Westport called it "extremely disturbing" but said "fortunately, no one was in danger" after two unarmed men attempted to disrupt a luncheon Tuesday for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

The incident began when the two men appeared at the door and noisily attempted to disrupt the luncheon just before 1 p.m., said Steven Phillips, president of Temple Israel.

"Their intent appears to have been to protest and create a disturbance," Phillips said in a statement to the membership. The men were confronted by Executive Director Lisa Goldberg, and then detained by Director of Member Engagement Bryan Bierman, Cantor Dan Sklar and Rabbi P.J. Schwartz, and others.

Westport Police were called and officers arrested Daniel Fischer, 25, and Gregory Williams, 25, of New Haven. Each was charged with first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree breach of peace. Weston police also assisted during the incident.

A police search of the suspects, the building and the grounds turned up no weapons, Phillips said. To ensure safety, police will maintain a presence at Temple Israel into Wednesday, he said.

Temple Israel continued with its programming later Tuesday, even though Coleytown Middle School, Coleytown Elementary School, the preschool at the Unitarian Church and the Temple Israel nursery were put into lockdown during the initial police response Tuesday afternoon.

According to a police report, when the men entered the building, they were confronted by staff and told to leave. They refused, and pushed past staff members in an attempt to enter the meeting place, police said.

Temple Israel staff members physically restrained them to keep them from entering the meeting place, police said.

As the two were detained, they kept shouting statements regarding the IDF, police said. Their actions created enough concern that several attendees left the building out of fear for their safety, police said.

"We will continue to follow up with the police as they look into this matter," Phillips said. "We believe that the response of our staff and Westport Police Department was exemplary. As we learn more about this incident, we will continue to work with the Westport Police Department to ensure that our security procedures keep everyone safe."

The incident was extremely disturbing, he said. "Fortunately, no one was in danger," Phillips said. "I would like to thank the staff and the police for the poise and professionalism with which they handled the situation."

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