An anti-Netanyahu protester was charged on Sunday with assaulting a public servant and hindering a police officer in the performance of his duties. This is the third indictment against a demonstrator since the current wave of protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began. The three indictments are in addition to charges filed in two other cases involving alleged assaults against supporters of the prime minister.
Sunday’s indictment was filed against Shlomo Laks in connection with alleged incidents beginning on July 29 in Jerusalem. He denies any wrongdoing.
The first incident arose after Jerusalem municipal inspectors went to Independence Park near Paris Square – the main site of the regular anti-Netanyahu protests opposite the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street. Protesters had set up an encampment in the park, and, according to the indictment, the inspectors had come to dismantle the encampment and confiscate equipment on the basis that it was obstructing public access. When an inspector attempted to remove a metal sunshade, Laks allegedly grabbed it and refused to release his grip. A few seconds later, according to the indictment, the inspector let go of the shade and shoved Laks, who then hit the inspector with the shade.
In July, lawyers for protesters in the park alleged that the removal of the encampment was illegal and that it was carried out without authority, an issue that is also expected to be raised in preliminary arguments in Laks’ case.
In a separate count of the indictment, on September 5, Laks allegedly participated in a march along Keren Hayesod Street near Paris Square and “exhorted the crowd with a megaphone to disturb the peace and hindered the police by calling on the crowd ‘to overturn and break through the police barriers.’” He then allegedly called on protesters to slow their pace so there was a sufficient crowd assembled to break through the police barriers.
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Last Saturday night, Laks also took part in protest dubbed “besieging Balfour,” blocking the back entrance to the Prime Minister’s Residence. “Despite requests by police, the accused used his megaphone to call on protesters to sit in the street and to disobey police orders,” the indictment states. When the police approached Laks and asked him to enter a patrol car, he resisted, lay on the ground and refused to go with them, hindering the police in the performance of their duties, according to the charges.
The charges are entirely baseless, Laks told Haaretz. In connection with allegations that he urged a crowd to break through police barriers, he claimed that he was arrested that day even though he and his fellow protesters had not encountered police barriers.
He said he was put in an undercover police car and driven around the city. “A police officer threatened me the whole way,” he alleged, adding that the officer told him that there was a video of him making the comments regarding the barriers on the megaphone. “The only video that they showed me was one in which I called on people to walk slowly,” he said.
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Last month, the prosecution filed indictments against anti-Netanyahu protesters Gonen Ben Itzhak and Bar Binyamin. The indictments charge Ben Itzhak – who is among the most prominent of the protest activists – with obstructing the police and unlawful assembly. Binyamin is charged with aggravated assault of a police officer.