The police arrested around 40 demonstrators noisily protesting outside Tel Aviv city hall against the city's dismantling of tent encampments before dawn, on wednesday. Around 150 people had demonstrated for hours outside the building, vowing to remain in encampments nationwide to continue this summer's protest against the rising cost of living.
They hurled eggs and flowers at the building entrance, calling on Mayor Ron Huldai to resign. Dozens of others protested outside Huldai's home in Tel Baruch.
The demonstrations came after city inspectors and laborers, accompanied by police, raided the encampments on Rothschild, Nordau and Ben-Gurion boulevards, as well as in Levinsky Park. They took down tents and loaded them on garbage trucks with whatever was inside. City officials said the tents had been abandoned.
Municipality official Menachem Leibe said the city had taken down only empty tents that had not been in use for a long time. He said the city supports the protest "but the protest leaders, the students, youth movements and many others understand that the protest must move on to other levels."
On Wednesday Huldai told Channel 10 that the protest had "played itself out."
A day earlier city inspectors handed out roses and notices to protesters at the encampments, saying they wanted to cooperate to evacuate the tents.
The protesters in Tel Aviv carried signs, beat drums, blew whistles and shouted slogans through megaphones.
Demonstrators put up several tents near the entrance to city hall and vowed not to leave the tent cities. Several left-wing activists and politicians including MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ) and Tel Aviv city council member Tamar Zandberg attended the rally.
Kfir Cohen from the encampment on Ben-Gurion Boulevard said inspectors had come like "thieves in the night" to tear the tents down.
The demonstrators blocked Ibn Gabirol Street, obstructed the entrance to the municipality and made a racket with their whistles, drums and megaphones. The police and municipality said the protesters did not represent the protest.
"They crossed a thick line today. This is very grave violence, throwing stones and eggs at cops; it's vandalism," Yarkon subdistrict commander Yoram Ohayon said.
"What we're seeing today is rioting for its own sake. These are not the protesters we've met in recent weeks. These aren't the people who demonstrated lawfully. These are different people."
Activists on Rothschild Boulevard managed to protect the tents north of Sheinkin Street, but south of it only a handful remain.
The demonstrators accused the municipality of hypocrisy after inspectors had come a day earlier with their offer to help take the tents down.
"They came without warning, they had no court order," said Yishai Skali, one of the activists who had set up the site on Nordau Boulevard. "They destroyed personal belongings and tents that cannot be restored. This comes after an explicit commitment by the city not to carry out any evacuation without coordinating with us."
Yoav Fakta of the Rothschild encampment said the inspectors took down tents that had been in use. "People left their tents to go to work. Two minutes later inspectors came and loaded the tents with everything in them on garbage trucks," he said. "They threw perfectly good tents into garbage trucks. On Wednesday they distributed notices that they want to cooperate with us and then they evacuated the place against the law."
Protesters in Holon were furious after a large police force accompanied by city inspectors and laborers tore down the encampment in the Jesse Cohen neighborhood. The police guarded the inspectors and workers as they destroyed huts, built by homeless people, with hammers and bulldozers.
Before the demolition, police arrested four activists, fearing they might stoke a riot.
Dozens of tent dwellers and homeless people stood silently watching the demolition. Moshe Davosh, who had lived in one of the huts over the past six weeks, rushed to save the mezuzah on the door.
"I have nowhere to go, nowhere to live," he said. "They're throwing us out like street cats."
By evening the activists had built huts again. "They will demolish and we will rebuild," said neighborhood committee chairman Nisan Zecharia. "This is a struggle of people to whom fate has been cruel and who are being treated like criminals."
The Holon municipality said it only tore down illegal structures and not the tent encampment. The city supports the study on housing prices, officials said.