Twenty-eight Israelis were arrested on Saturday evening as thousands protested in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government's response to the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.
Thousands of self-employed people demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park before marching through the city to Habima Square; thirteen protesters were arrested after clashing with police.
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In Tel Aviv, police said that toward the end of the protest, “some hundreds of protesters violated police orders and started marching the streets while blocking main roads until arriving at Habima Square, where they started clashing with police officers."
At 10 P.M. police began using mounted units and water cannons in an attempt to clear the area. In a statement, police said "the lawbreakers started setting garbage cans on fire, assaulted police officers by throwing bottles and a lit torch at them, as well as spraying pepper spray in the face of a senior police officer.
“Out of the 13 protesters arrested, six will be brought before the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court," with the police asking to extend their remand. Seven of those arrested were questioned and released with restrictions, the police added.
In Jerusalem, some 2,000 protesters demonstrated outside Netanyhau’s official residence, calling for his resignation over his corruption charges for the fourth time this week. Fifteen were arrested after protesters began blocking the streets surrounding Paris Square. Some of the demonstrators began marching toward the city center before returning to the area surrounding the Prime Minister's Residence.
Police closed Jerusalem's central Jaffa Street to traffic and erected barriers to prevent protesters from nearing Netanyahu's residence. Some ten pro-Netanyahu counter protesters demonstrated nearby.
Police said that five of those arrested in Jerusalem would be brought before the magistrate's court in the city, adding they will request the court to extend the custody of one protester who was arrested for assaulting a police officer, and release four others with restrictions.
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Four were released on Sunday to their homes with a one-week restraining order from the Prime Minister's Residence and Paris Square, and one was released on house arrest for four days after police claimed he assaulted a police officer.
he protests were not organized by a single, centralized organization, but were made up of a variety of different groups and young people who are unaffiliated with any particular movement.
Amir Haskel, who has been among the organizers of the protests in recent weeks, urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully on Saturday. “I urge a protest with no violence,” he said, adding that protesters should adhere to noise regulations and wrap up activities by 11 P.M., as required by the protest permit. He also urged protesters not to clash with police.
A Facebook post advertising the protest stated, “We are just tired of not being seen, not being heard, not being cared about...The time has come for you [the government] to get it together, get up in the morning and work for the citizens, instead of dealing with nonsense. Because without us, there is no country."
Self-employed join Tel Aviv protest
Thousands joined the protest in Tel Aviv's Charles Clore Park Saturday, made up of several organizations representing self-employed Israelis and members of the so-called Black Flag movement, which is calling for Netanyahu to step down in light of his corruption charges.
The movements joined forces after police refused to let them demonstrate at a different location, citing coronavirus restrictions.
Under the slogan "fighting for bread," protesters carried signs that read "out of touch, you don't care," and the crowd chanted "shame!" Self-employed Israelis addressed the crowd with personal testimonies alongside social activists. Musical artists such as T-Slam, Rami Kleinstein, Miri Mesika and Hemi Rodner performed at the demonstration.
Following the demonstration, protesters began marching up the boardwalk and blocking the roads, before heading toward the center of the city. Protesters proceeded from Allenby Street to Sheinkin Street and up Rothschild Boulevard. Protesters shouted for residents to come show their support from their balconies: "Come out from the balconies, the country is collapsing!"
When protesters arrived at Habima Square, they were met by mounted units and water cannons. Police attempted to erect barriers to contain protesters. Protesters immediately tried to overcome the barriers and clashed with police. Several protesters were arrested after police said that protesters had used pepper spray against them.
Ronit Al-On, a protester from Ra’anana, said, “Everyone in the government just does whatever he wants, because the decisions are being made according to different agendas. And what about the people down there? It doesn’t interest the government … People who made good money all these years from their own hard work, not lazy people, can’t even survive today. The people aren’t dumb, people need to get up and scream their protest.”
Maya Pick, who was just released from her mandatory army service two days ago said, “I wanted to go to Balfour [Street in Jerusalem] but I couldn’t get there in time, so I came here. I’ve been waiting a long time for the protesters to wake up … there are a lot of people who don’t have a future here and I fully support heading out onto the streets and voting with our feet.”
On Wednesday, the police refused to approve a demonstration that the self-employed planned to hold on Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square against the government's response to the pandemic's economic fallout. The police said that the plaza and the area around it can hold no more than 1,800 people with everyone practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A hundred protesters also gathered in the main square of Mitzpe Ramon in Israel's Negev desert.
Netanyahu has been drawing criticism not only for his alleged misconduct in the three corruption cases against him, but also for his attacks on the attorney general, the media, law enforcement and the judiciary in his arguments that the charges against him are baseless.