Israel's Police Chief: Violence During Recent Social Protest Was Premeditated

Yohanan Danino calls on social protest leaders to work with the police to allow future 'legitimate' demonstrations, after protesters clashed with police, blocked roads, and smashed bank windows on Saturday.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino on Tuesday accused activists that participated in Saturday's social protest that the violence and law infractions that occurred were premeditated.

On Saturday, Israel's social protest turned violent as thousands of Israelis clashed with police, blocked roads, and smashed bank windows.

"What we saw was not a popular protest but a planned web of events including law infractions and violence," Danino said.

He called on leaders of Israel's social protest to coordinate their plans with the police in order to "return to sanity."

"I do not want to spoil anything for those who call themselves the leaders of the protest," Danino said. "Do not put the police at the front, we are not your address.

You need us just as the other citizens need us. We will allow the protests to happen as long as they are legitimate and lawful."

"I think the activists' goal was to reintroduce the subject into the national agenda at any price, and I think the price was too heavy," he said.

Danino said that he instructed his officers to coordinate with the protests, but said it was difficult since they are not really an organized body. He said however, that he does not believe violent incidents such as the ones during Saturday's protest will repeat themselves.

On Saturday night, when the police realized that it wouldn't be able to control the large number of protesters that arrived at Habima Square, they decided to allow the protesters to march on some major streets. At first no unusual events took place, but once the protesters arrived at Zeitlin Street, a group of protesters tried to break into a Discount Bank branch. Some protesters vandalized the bank's ATMs, others tried to break in through its windows. The police responded with force to this event sending police officers in, in large numbers, to clear the vandals out.

After that the protesters crossed the street to break into two other bank branches belonging to Leumi Bank and Bank Hapolaim. At this point violence broke out with the police rounding up and arresting protesters in large numbers.

Later during the evening, a group of some 300 protesters walked down to Ayalon Highway, the main route in and out of Tel Aviv, and blocked off the Hashalom intersection. After, the protesters continued to Tel Aviv's City Hall where they continued clashing with the police.

Officials at the Tel Aviv District Police said Sunday that the district may have been inadequately prepared for the protest. Officers in the district said that the police failed to correctly anticipate the number of protesters that would attend and the violent behavior that would ensue.

Police arrest a demonstrator during a protest for social justice in Tel Aviv
Tomer Appelbaum
Protesters blocking off Tel Aviv streets.
Moti Milrod