Anti-Netanyahu Protests Continue in Tel Aviv in Shadow of Lockdown, Police Violence

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Protesters confront police at Tel Aviv's Habima Square, October 6, 2020.
Protesters confront police at Tel Aviv's Habima Square, October 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Some 400 demonstrators took to the streets in Tel Aviv and more in dozens of other cities and towns across Israel, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down and protesting the government's restrictions on demonstrations during Israel's coronavirus lockdown.

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On Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, a number of protesters tried to break through the police barrier, causing minor clashes with officers at the scene. On nearby King George Street, demonstrators chanted "We do not agree to a political lockdown." Participants sent other protesters on bikes to scout out police locations. 

In Jerusalem, protesters said they were attacked with eggs and water bottles during demonstrations in the neighborhoods of Katamonim and Gilo.

Tel Aviv protests

Along with numerous locations across Israel, a small protest took place near the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim. One of the few demonstrators there held a sign reading: "Fighting for democracy and the rule of law, even beyond the Green Line."

As part of the “A Kilometer It Is” protest, in which demonstrators abide by the special coronavirus regulations restricting protests to 1000 meters from a person’s home, people have gathered at designated points across Israel. Following reports of police violence directed at protesters on Saturday night, organizers expected a large turnout.

Anti-government protester waves a pink handkerchief during a rally in Jaffa, October 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

A coalition of groups organizing the protests called on police to "remember that their role is to protect us," citing reports of police brutality and a court ruling this week striking down restrictions imposed by police on activists who were arrested during demonstrations. The organizers said they were taking to the streets due to a "crisis of faith" with a "failed government."

Some protest organizers have called on Whatsapp to unite the Tel Aviv protests into a centralized march through the city later in the night; the police have warned against doing so. Police bolstered their forces in preparation.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands of Israelis protested within their one-kilometer radius. Clashes between protesters and police broke out in Tel Aviv, with arrests taking place and mounted units deployed. Protesters breached police barricades near Habima Square and began marching through the city while blocking traffic.

In south Tel Aviv, officers were filmed punching protesters as they attempted to break through crowds. Police claim that protesters were violating coronavirus restrictions and disturbing the public order. In all, 38 were arrested in the city during the protests.

Anti-government protesters gather in central Tel Aviv, October 6, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

Before the clashes broke out, dozens of police officers circled the roughly 1,000 protesters in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, approaching protesters in order to check if their place of residence is within one kilometer of the protest. Police also handed out fines to protesters, and confirmed late Saturday night that they had handed out hundreds of fines in Tel Aviv alone for violations of the emergency regulations.

The rallies, which began on Thursday and Friday in the wake of the new distance limitations on protests, are a joint effort by organizations that have been protesting against  Netanyahu’s continued tenure despite having been indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three criminal cases.

Hagar Shezaf and Nir Hasson contributed to this report.

Anti-government protesters jog through Jerusalem to circumvent restrictions on demonstrations, but not on sports activities, during Israel's coronavirus lockdown, October 6, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

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