30 Protesters Arrested at Jerusalem Rally to Legalize Marijuana

Activists block junction near Knesset after police stop planned 'Big Bong Night’ protest in adjacent park.

Police arrest a protester at the pro-marijuana rally in Jerusalem, April 20, 2014.
Police arrest a protester at the pro-marijuana rally in Jerusalem, April 20, 2014. Olivier Fitoussi

Some 1,000 protesters calling for the legalization of marijuana blocked an intersection near the Knesset in the early hours of Sunday morning, after police refused to let them hold their planned “Big Bong Night” in a park near the Knesset in Jerusalem.

As pro-marijuana crowds gathered, some 30 protesters were detained by the police. Seven were arrested for drug offenses, with the others detained for disturbing the peace. In addition, traffic police held hearings for five drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.

Police forces, including mounted police, clashed with protesters at the scene. The police had difficulty reopening the road leading to the Knesset.

Last Thursday, Amos Dov Silver and Ofer Bar-Tov – two of the organizers behind The Big Bong Night – were arrested by Jerusalem police. Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended their remand on Friday morning, and the two men have been held in custody since refusing to cancel the event.

The police sought to keep the two men under house arrest amid suspicions of sedition, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor and advocating an illegal gathering. The police also sought to restrict the two men from entering Jerusalem for 90 days. The judge, however, refused to place the men under house arrest but declared that they could not enter the Wohl Rose Park near the Knesset until Monday. The two men decided to remain in custody, claiming that their freedom of speech was being trampled.

Silver’s arrest caused a furore online among marijuana-legalization activists, especially others involved with the event. Over 5,000 people registered to attend the event on Facebook. Many condemned the police’s attempts to disrupt the rally and called Dov Silver “the first political prisoner in the struggle to legalize marijuana.”

Organizers had attempted to hold an event that would challenge the law. “Get out of our bodies, or you’ll have to arrest all of us together,” they wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “We are coming to smoke marijuana, because that’s what we do. And if the government has a problem with smoking marijuana, they can come arrest us one by one,” it stated.