All 11 protesters detained on Saturday night at a demonstration near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem have been released from custody, as a legal battle over the weekly anti-government protest continues.
Two High Court justices, Alex Stein and Yael Wilner, criticized the police on Sunday for not enforcing the municipal by-law banning noise after 9:30 PM, after hearing a petition by dozens of neighbors, who live in the neighborhoods of Rehavia and Talbiyeh, against the demonstrations in the area.
Prosecutor Moriah Freeman said it was an “operational decision” by the police not to confiscate vuvuzelas and drums.
The Jerusalem police operations officer, Amir Arzani, told the High Court that the practical problem of trying to take away hundreds of noisemakers and drums when such a large crowd gathers at a protest. “Nobody gives it to you. It can take hours,” he said. “The difficulty is that nobody has control over the protesters. They don’t listen to anyone and every attempt to take the instruments away would require force that doesn’t always seem reasonable to us.”
The petitioners’ lawyer, Ariel Khur Nizri, said that amplifiers are a major source of the noise and the “amplifiers used by Likud supporters are at a noise level of the Expo Tel Aviv venue. It causes a lot of suffering.” To this, Justice Uzi Vogelman responded: “Our hearts are with the neighbors, who are paying a price. We also know Rehavia. It’s no punishment to live there, it’s a great privilege, but there’s a price to pay.”
A ruling on the petition is to be given at a later date.
Nine of the 11 protesters detained on Saturday were released later that night, some on condition that they stay away from Jerusalem for a period of time. The two remaining protesters were released on Sunday morning after their lawyer, Lea Tsemel, reached a deal with the police that they would remain under house arrest for four nights and keep away from Jerusalem until the end of August.
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Six were arrested on Saturday night while the police were dispersing the demonstration, and five others were arrested during a march to the President’s Residence by a few dozen people who managed to evade police barricades.
According to protest organizers, the police arrested anyone holding a megaphone in front of the residence, or who seemed to be leading the march and acted illegally. The commander of the police’s Zion sub-district, Brig. Gen. Ofer Shomer, said that among those arrested were “known organizers like those who have previously conducted illegal marches.”
On Saturday night, like the two previous Saturdays, the police did not use water cannons or mounted officers to disperse the crowd. Instead, dozens of Border Police officers forcibly dispersed protesters who were blocking a street.
Thousands of people came to the area near the prime minister’s residence to protest, and hundreds of others came to his private home in Caesarea. Thousands more protested at bridges and junctions throughout the country as part of the black flag movement.
Also Sunday, the police released under restrictions a 20-year resident of Hadera who was detaind on Saturday night for attacking anti-government protesters with firecrackers, and said they are continuing their investigation into the incident. Protesters on Saturday reported attacks in several spots around the city, and it remains unclear whether the police suspect the man was responsible for all of them.