A peaceful protest over the murders of Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel at the western entrance to the capital on Tuesday afternoon descended into a protracted riot spanning much of the downtown area, resulting in 28 arrests.
Video courtesy of News 24
According to one witness, the violence began in front of the central bus station at approximately 4 p.m., when protesters blocked traffic shortly after roughly 200 demonstrators gathered without incident near the Bridge of Strings.
“The cops came because they obstructed traffic on the two main roads there,” said Lia Kamana, a Jerusalem Post intern who became embroiled in the melee. “The police kept trying to get them off the road, and that’s when they started arresting people.”
Kamana said the crowd became markedly more aggressive “when they realized people were getting arrested.”
“It started with protesters pushing police and police pushing back – and I got hit in the face by a cop when he was pushing the crowd back,” Kamana, a resident of Honolulu who has been studying and working in Jerusalem since January, said.
“I saw one kid split his head open after being pushed over a wall by an officer, so I got an EMT [emergency medical technician] for him.”
Kamana, who was not seriously injured, said a group of protesters gathered rocks to defend themselves, although none were thrown. “There were three fights going on at once between the police and protesters,” she added.
After the violence abated, Kamana said a large group of the protesters marched up Jaffa Road, where they soon converged on an Arab-owned store and shouted at its owner, as his two small children looked on in horror.
“There were people shouting at the owner about revenge and how the government needs to do something, and they overturned the store’s candy stands,” she said. “The owner’s two little girls were freaking out and crying.”
Although the store owner and his daughters were not physically harmed, they were visibly “very upset,” Kamana said.
Upon leaving the store, the growing mob continued up Jaffa Road to the Mahaneh Yehuda shuk, where some blocked the light rail’s tracks, attempted to enter the market, and damaged a moped, Kamana said.
“The cops then blocked off all the entrances to the market to prevent them from getting in and they soon left without any more violence,” she said.
As the protest gained momentum, attracting more and more young people, hundreds of demonstrators assembled approximately 30 minutes later at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate demanding revenge, as gawking passersby looked on, she said.
“When the cops threatened to use tear gas the majority of the group began running away from the Old City, and some people got trampled,” she said.
“Then hundreds of people walked back to Jaffa Road, and some of them sat on the train tracks again.”
Minutes later, as a police helicopter hovered above and officers on horseback tried to quell the protest, the mob converged on city hall’s Safra Square while chanting “Kahane was right,” “Revenge” and “Jewish Power.”
Teenager Noa Ben-Hamo – who, like most of the protesters wore numerous stickers affixed to her shirt reading “Israeli Government: No more talking, we demand revenge!” among other declarations – expressed frustration over the murders of the three yeshiva students.
“We are very angry and we came here to protest the terrorists,” she said, as hundreds of others continued down Jaffa Road followed by dozens of officers.
“We don’t want to live in fear and we don’t want war with the Arabs, but we want the terrorists to stop doing this because we are Jewish! “This is our country!” Ben-Hamo continued.
“We are fighting because we must defend ourselves, but the Arabs are fighting because they hate us and want more blood,” another female protester said.
“The Arabs must accept that we are here! If they don’t, the fighting will continue from both sides!” Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the 28 arrests, though he denied that any protesters were injured during the riot.