The Jerusalem Municipality on Sunday morning dismantled a protest encampment demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign near the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. According to protesters, city inspectors arrived at the site at 6:00 A.M. and removed mattresses, an awning and kitchen utensils.
Protesters were not told that they had to leave the site and the inspectors did not confiscate their signs. The encampment was started in mid-June, demanding the premier step down in light of his corruption trial.
The municipality said in a statement that the site had “become an outpost and disturbance of public order," and that the protest “which had been approved for a few hours, had actually become a takeover of the land, using permanent elements such as a kitchen, a generator, fences and elements that could actually create a permanent outpost in the middle of the street in the heart of a residential neighborhood.” The municipality added that it had received numerous complaints from residents, guests and nearby hotels, as well as from the police.
The organizer of the protest, Amir Haskel, said Sunday morning that he believed “someone from above had apparently felt the pressure.” He added that “I’m not a commentator, but I see the protest yesterday in Tel Aviv and I know that we’ve been here a month already and no one came to [remove the encampment] before.”
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About two weeks ago the police arrested Haskel, claiming that he had encouraged protesters to block a road. He refused to be released on the condition that he agree to stay away from Jerusalem. He remained in police custody for more than 24 hours, until a judge ordered him released with no restrictions. The demonstrators, who are mostly older people, have been sleeping at the site for about a month now. On Fridays they hold demonstrations, which are attended by hundreds of people, blocking nearby Gaza Road to vehicular traffic.
About three years ago, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit struck down city ordinances banning the pitching of permanent tents for demonstrations, ruling that these ordinances impaired freedom of expression. Among the ordinances overturned was one prohibiting the pitching of a tent near the prime minister’s residence and limiting the approval of a demonstration to three days. The city has not instituted new regulations since then.