Protesters ‘Forcefully’ Removed From anti-Netanyahu Encampment

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Police evacuating the protest encampment at Jerusalem's Independence Park, August 9, 2020.
Police evacuating the protest encampment at Jerusalem's Independence Park, August 9, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Demonstrators calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that police and municipality inspectors violently dismantled their protest encampment in Jerusalem, without presenting a court warrant.

This is the fifth time Jerusalem Municipality has attempted to tear down the protest camp set up in Jerusalem’s Independence Park. Two protesters were lightly injured as they clashed with law enforcement at the encampment, and required medical attention.

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Protesters said that their equipment was confiscated and that they were "forcefully removed from the encampment," not far from Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street.

The inspectors later returned to the encampment and levied fines on the 30 protesters who remained there.   

The encampment was erected three weeks ago by several activists leading the anti-Netanyahu protests. Jerusalem Municipality inspectors have broken up the protest camp several times, confiscating tents, mattresses, sleeping bags and other equipment from protesters.

Last week, the municipality announced it would designate space for protest rallies within the park’s boundaries. Now the municipality says protesters set up their camp outside the designated area.

Some 50 demonstrators, including families with children, spent the night between Saturday and Sunday at the park, waking up to inspectors dismantling it.       

“They arrived early in the morning, at 7 A.M., people were still sleeping after [Saturday’s] demonstration," said Ananda (Pini) Mogilevsky, one of the encampment's organizers. "They upped the level of violence, dragging tents with people still inside sleeping, taking personal equipment." He said that he saw a municipal inspector take an elbow to someone's head, beating protesters. "Police stood by, without a warrant, without anything, there was no one to talk to."

Avi Ofer, another prominent protester, called what he witnessed "mob behaviour."    

Police said that they had arrested one person for possession of a knife and disturbance of public order. “This morning police officers guarded Jerusalem Municipality inspectors while they cleared out a protest encampment near Jerusalem’s Independence Park,” a police statement said. “Some people tried to block a nearby road, but they were removed from the area shortly after and the road is now open to traffic.”   

The Jerusalem Municipality said that they cleared out the protesters because they behaved "in a way that harmed the public order in the Jerusalem city center and within Independence Park." The municipality statement added that "This presence in the city center has become insufferable for the residents, for whom this is their home and neighborhood. The municipality called on the protesters to follow the guidelines, and announced that "any other behavior will bring the eviction of equipment and people. Any disturbance of the public order will be met with decisive action from the Jerusalem District Police and the Jerusalem Municipality." 

On Saturday evening, more than 10,000 protesters gathered outside Netanyahu’s official residence, and thousands more across the country in demonstrations against the government for the fourth week in a row. Some protesters also demonstrated in front of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon over his handling of the protest encampment at the park.

Police attempted to bring the demonstration to an end shortly after midnight by airing an announcement over loudspeakers. Police started evacuating protesters from the area around the residence around half an hour later.

Calls to leave the protest zone after midnight often preceded more severe clashes between protesters and law enforcement at previous demonstrations, and some feared violence before the protest started – but the demonstration ended quickly, after an apparently firm police operation. Three were arrested for "disturbing the peace," the police later said in a statement.

Haaretz photographer Ohad Zwigenberg was briefly detained. He was released after being confined for 20 minutes to a bus rented to carry away detained protesters.

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