Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Wednesday accused demonstrators of engaging in violence at a protest in Tel Aviv last weekend. Also on Wednesday, police officers said that media coverage and video footage of the protest did not reflect the reality police had faced.
"The protesters threw eggs at policemen, as well as water and rocks. If that weren't enough, they scrawled graffiti on the car belonging to the head of the operations branch of the Tel Aviv police," Aharonovitch said in the Knesset on Wednesday, adding that some of the marchers then crossed Rabin Square and smashed bank branch windows.
Also speaking at the Knesset session, Miri Regev (Likud ) said the protesters "don't want social change. They want protest for the sake of protest for the sake of protest. The extreme left-wing demonstrators want to turn Rabin Square into Tahrir Square [in Cairo] and bring down the government."
On Wednesday, Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino met with officers at the Yarkon regional police headquarters in Tel Aviv, following criticism of police conduct during last weekend's protest. Danino was told by officers that coverage did not reflect the reality police faced. The police commissioner expressed support for the police but cautioned against the use of violence.
Following the posting of a video clip showing a policeman, Chief Superintendent Yossi Sperling, choking a female demonstrator, police announced that he will be summoned for clarification of the incident.
Meanwhile, protesters continue to plan a range of unofficial "Black Night" events to counter this evening's municipal-sponsored White Night festival in Tel Aviv, in protest at violence they say was directed at protesters by police officers and municipal inspectors during last weekend's protest.
"There's a protest here that is alive and kicking despite the fact that over the course of the year the government did everything to destroy it," Stav Shaffir, one of the leaders of last summer's social-justice protests, told Haaretz on Wednesday.
"We don't want a violent protest," said Shaffir, "and don't want them to drag us into violent protest or to drag us by the hair in the street, so we will take every possible step to do what we are doing without allowing the police to precipitate such violence."
Shaffir said she and her colleagues must focus attention now on the issue of next year's state budget. "We have to apply the right pressure, come up with solutions and suggest good, reasonable proposals on how to improve things, so that we are able to already see the effects of the protest in the coming year," she said.
"We need a change in taxation, a progressive corporate tax, fewer of the indirect taxes that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu loves so much, massive construction of public housing, the beginning of affordable housing in Israel, a complete halt to the privatization of the education and health systems," she added.
Reacting to the Tel Aviv municipality's consent this week to the presence of a protest tent encampment near the Tel Aviv central train station at Namir Road and Arlosoroff Street, Shaffir said protest should be possible anywhere in the city where people wish to support it. "Putting us at the end of the city, near the border with Ramat Gan shows exactly what [Tel Aviv Mayor] Ron Huldai and city hall think of us - that we're marginal, as far from the center of things as possible."
As part of the Black Night event, at 6 P.M. on Thursday, a public advocacy vigil will be held in the center of Tel Aviv followed at 9:30 P.M. by a "tent march" from Habima Square, down Rothschild Boulevard - the scene of last year's protest tent encampment - to south Tel Aviv, where street parties and cultural events are planned.
A bar on Nahalat Binyamin Street is hosting what is being billed as a freedom of speech party with an open microphone, available to anyone seeking to express an opinion. Among other events is a 3 A.M. pajama party in Rabin Square.
On Saturday night another protest march is planned in Tel Aviv. "I assume we will encounter different treatment from the police," one of the protest organizers Yonatan Levi said. "They won't violently assault people and choke them," he said, adding that the protesters will refrain from violence and hope the police do too.
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