Several organizations representing self-employed Israelis have said they will join the protest of the so-called Black Flag movement in Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park on Saturday, after police refused to let them demonstrate at a different location, citing coronavirus restrictions.
The Black Flag protests first gained recognition in March, when a motorcade of hundreds of cars made its way to Jerusalem to protest anti-democratic measures to combat the coronavirus, including the approval of civilians’ phone tracking by the Shin Bet security service.
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The movement is protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for alleged corruption and accused by critics of attempting to subvert democracy.
On Wednesday, the police refused to approve a demonstration that the self-employed planned to hold on Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin over the government's response to the outbreak'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.
Police said they would approve the protest at a different location in the city, one that could safely accommodate the several thousand people who are expected to attend.
The organizations representing the self-employed, together with the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, planned to petition the High Court of Justice against the police’s decision. But eventually, some of them decided to join the demonstration in Charles Clore, which police have already approved, permitting the attendance of up to 8,000 people while maintaining social distancing.
The groups that are expected to take part in Saturday’s protest include the association for the self-employed in Israel, the movement to save international tourism, and the so-called Association of the Unemployed.
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The organizations are demanding compensation for the economic damage inflicted upon them amid the coronavirus crisis. Last week, Netanyahu unveiled an aid package in which self-employed individuals receive an immediate 7,500 shekels ($2,150) stipend.
On Wednesday, the prime minister announced a universal aid package that would see all Israeli citizens receive a one-time payment, pending a government decision. Netanyahu’s proposal would allow between 2,000 and 3,000 shekels ($584-875) to families with children, and 750 shekels ($218) for single people.
The organizers of the Black Flag protest issued a statement saying: “A prime minister who hands out six billion shekels as election bribe doesn’t understand the depth of the pit the country has fallen into. Netanyahu only cares about soaring in the polls and preventing demonstrations. He isn’t trying to solve anything, he just wants to silence the protests.”
Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen said Thursday that protests have recently been spreading throughout the country against the backdrop of the “complex reality we’re all experiencing. Unfortunately, some of the protests have deteriorated to violence and acts of vandalism, which we won’t allow. It’s permitted to protest and demonstrate, but under no circumstances is it allowed to resort to any kind of violence.”
Police said in a statement that they will “act to enable protests to take place, while at the same time ensuring compliance with the emergency regulations so as not to harm the public’s health.”
Last Saturday, over 10 thousand unemployed people protested in Tel Aviv against the government's handling of the economic crisis. Police arrested 20 people after clashes erupted between law enforcement and protesters.