30 Arrested at 10,000-strong Protest Against Netanyahu in Jerusalem

Police officer filmed hitting protester as law enforcement forcefully disperse demonstrators ■ Police: Incident will be investigated, three officers injured

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Protesters calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation stand across the prime minister's official residence in Paris Square, August 22, 2020
Protesters calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation stand across the prime minister's official residence in Paris Square, August 22, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Thirty people were arrested as 10,000 demonstrated Saturday night in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem demanding his resignation.

A police officer with the rank of brigadier general was filmed hitting a protester. According to police, one protester, who was arrested, admitted to punching the officer and apologized. It was not immediately clear whether this was the same protester who was filmed being hit. Protesters who were arrested and brought to court for a hearing on their detention meanwhile described violence on the part of police that went beyond that in previous protests.

A police statement earlier said that "different groups chose today the path of provocation, including physical and verbal violence" against police, and that the protest was dispersed after demonstrators refused to stop using noisemakers. Three officers were injured during the protests, police said.

"There were some of us who started talking to the cops and told them to watch over us, but then all of a sudden the cops started throwing people into a nearby cafe, just like that they started pushing people," said one protester. "This officer just took the first person he saw and threw him to the floor for no reason," he added.

Earlier Saturday, about 1,000 protesters marched from the Chords Bridge near the entrance to the city toward Balfour Street, where the residence is located, despite not receiving a permit for the march from the police.

Meanwhile, demonstrators from the so-called Black Flag movement, who call to defend Israel's democracy from what they perceive as Netanyahu's government attacks against it, gathered at some 300 intersections, junctions and bridges across Israel.

Another 1,000 protested near the prime minister's private home in Caesarea.

As protesters marched in Jerusalem, they split up and went into separate lanes, all leading to Balfour Street. Large police forces blocked the protesters in the lane that passed through the wide Bezalel Street and blocked the road to traffic.

Protest organizers predicted earlier that clashes might erupt with police during the demonstration, but believed it would be due to the enforcement of noise laws as requested by the High Court.

Protesters calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation march from Jerusalem's Chords Bridge to the prime minister's official residence, August 22, 2020Credit: Emil Salman

A statement on behalf of the field organizations coordinating the protest said: "Those who harm the fabric of day-to-day life and violate public order are not those who march, but rather this disconnected government that occupies itself with political absurdities while we, the people, face the worst crisis in this country's history."

The statement accused the police of "joining the blind leadership and harassing us instead of doing their job and protecting us."

According to the outline presented by the police in a hearing on a petition filed by 60 residents living near the prime minister's residence against the demonstrations, the use of air horns, trumpets and drums was banned from 9:30 P.M., and from 11 P.M. the use of voice amplifiers was also forbidden.

The High Court rejected on Wednesday the petition seeking to limit the protests in scope or move them to a different location. The court did however say that the municipal by-law banning noise after 9:30 P.M. should be "effectively enforced."

The protest follows Friday night's demonstration, which also drew thousands to Balfour Street, as part of the anti-Netanyahu protest movement that has been ongoing for the past two months.

A protest camp in front of the prime minister's residence was forcibly evacuated by the police Thursday, to allow for the separation between the left-wing demonstrators and Netanyahu supporters who came out for a counter-protest, apparently assuming that thousands of right-wing Israelis would participate, while only about 300 did.

The police forcefully removed several from the protest camp who chained themselves to nearby roadblocks, including former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon, who was dragged by the police and injured. Additionally, dozens of other protesters were removed, and one was injured and sought medical treatment at a hospital.

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