The police are forbidding organizers of a demonstration against Isreal's alleged plan to annex parts of the West Bank from holding the protest, arguing that it would contravene reinstated coronavirus regulations.
They have also asked demonstrators to limit Facebook announcements of upcoming rallies in order to put a damper on the number of participants.
Organizers of a joint Jewish-Arab protest against annexation were planning to hold a 10,000-strong march on Saturday night, from the Tel Aviv Museum to Rabin Square.
At a meeting with the police, they were told that the police would not approve marches due to coronavirus restrictions. However, this is not specified in measures that were announced earlier.
Many buses have been organised to bring protesters from all around the country to Saturday’s rally.
Earlier this week, the police blocked a march against violence against women planned for Monday. Police asked organizers to limit their announcements on social media and to stop inviting people to the demonstration. They said the reason for the request was to reduce the number of participants and ensure that no major roads near Rabin Square were blocked.
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No more than 1,800 people are permitted to congregate in the square under current restrictions, unless roads were closed off, the police said. The square, which is a common site for protests, can normally hold 7,000 people without social distancing.
However, the High Court ruling on the coronavirus restrictions does not stipulate that a police permit is required for holding a rally ‒ only that the police be updated that a protest is going to take place.
During the coronavirus crisis, the police have been imposing various restrictions on demonstration organizers, asking them to limit the number of protesters.
“The guidelines for holding demonstrations at this time are clear, allowing marches and protest rallies to take place, while following health-related instructions”, says Shirli Nadav from ACRI. “Regrettably, this is not the first time the police are using health-related reasons to make it difficult to organize demonstrations, coming up with unreasonable demands. In recent weeks there have been some strange demands by the police to reduce posting on social media, as well as asking for lists of speakers. The police role is not to monitor the content of the demonstration or to limit the number of participants, but to enable freedom of protest while protecting demonstrators and safeguarding public order” she said.
The head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, one of the planned anti-annexation protest's many initiators, said that “the government has launched an assault on everybody’s civil rights to enable the draconian steps that would foil any chance for a Palestinian state and shatter the democratic sphere. I call on anyone who believes in peace and democracy and who opposes annexation and occupation to come on Saturday night and show them that we won’t give up. Nothing will prevent Jews and Arabs from demonstrating together.”