Police arrested three protesters on Saturday night outside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s home, after using leather whips and a water cannon to disperse the demonstration against the government's COVID policies.
The demonstrators were protesting near the premier's residence in Ra’anana against the government’s vaccination policies and restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.
Roi Peleg, one of the leaders of the protest, was among those who were whipped. “The police brought five horses into a small area, into a crowd of regular people. A policeman whipped me as I covered my face with my hands. He also could have struck me straight in the face.”
Nir Pich, who was also present at the protest, saw a policewoman whip his wife. “My wife was whipped on the arm. A mounted policewoman stood above us, she was not threatened in any way, she just lashed out in all directions,” he said.
He was spared he said, because he was holding a megaphone. “I was on the sidewalk and they started coming at us with the horses, threatening us with the reins. I had a megaphone and I shouted, and apparently that’s what stopped them,” he said.
According to Pich, who frequently attends demonstrations, use of the reins is humiliating and insulting compared to other police actions. “It has unpleasant associations,” he said.
According to another protester, Niron Mizrahi, the police should have allowed them to march and accompany them. “We’re not Phalangists with weapons, we’re just regular people, normal families,” he said, and described the whipping as he saw it. “A crazy fight started. I realized I was surrounded by five mounted police and people just starting falling on top of each other. Suddenly I realized they were whipping people with the reins.”
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On the issue of whips, police responded that "the use of reins by cavalry as documented in the video is intended for navigating and restraining the horses in order to protect the public's safety, including the safety of police officers and horses that were attacked with various objects in a way that endangered the public."
The police erected barriers Saturday at the site of the demonstration to ensure that protesters remained 300 to 500 meters from Bennett’s house, the limit set by the attorney general for protests in front of the homes of elected officials.
However, protesters say that police took advantage of the barriers to create a bottleneck and pushed them into a more restricted area than necessary. “They could have killed someone that way. It’s a miracle I wasn’t crushed there,” Peleg said.
“The police put us into an impossible situation. Despite knowledge gained from previous situations, the government allows the police to behave the same way.”