J'lem voting marked by haredi protests

Election Day began with a brawl between Kadima and NU activists.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
March 28, 2006 17:33
2 minute read.

Under tight security, tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents cast their ballots Tuesday in a mostly tranquil day of voting in the city that was marked by sporadic protests by haredi extremists opposed to the elections and isolated clashes between zealous party activists. Election Day began with a brawl between Kadima and National Union supporters at a main Jerusalem intersection. There were no injuries reported in the late-morning fracas at the city's northern French Hill intersection, in which activists from each party ripped the others signs up before fleeing the scene, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Kadima officials subsequently issued a complaint with Jerusalem police that rightists had beaten party activists and pulled down campaign posters in two locations in the usually hawkish city. In the meantime, scores of haredi extremists who are opposed to the existence of the Jewish State gathered outside a couple polling stations in and around Jerusalem's M'ea Shearim neighborhood urging residents not to vote, police said. Police forcibly dispersed them from the area. Several dozen yeshiva students pelted police with stones iron rods Tuesday night from their yeshiva in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, police said. There were no injuries immediately reported in the altercation. Police said that the rabbi of the yeshiva said that the attackers would be taken out of the yeshiva. Similar protests in Ramat Beit Shemesh turned violent after dozens of extremist haredi protesters, who tried to block the road leading to the polling station, were forcibly dispersed by police. Around midday, a Shas activist was arrested at a city polling station after assaulting an activist from the rival Agudat Yisrael faction, another was distanced from a Givat Ze'ev polling station after distributing campaign propaganda at the site, while a third received a warning from police after trying to force a woman to vote Shas, cajoling her with fliers and pictures of a late revered Israeli mystic, Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri. Meanwhile, across town, a 15-year-old Meretz activist was arrested in the city's Beit Hakerem neighborhood after refusing to take down election propaganda he erected near a polling station, police said. Then, in the late afternoon, a suspicious-looking bag with wires protruding from it left at a Jerusalem bus stop turned out to be a far-right prank, police said. Police sappers who checked out the bag found a note inside reading "just Baruch Marzel," referring to the far-right activist running for a seat in the Knesset. Marzel's far-right party was not expected to win enough to seats to get into the Knesset.


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