Jerusalem police will no longer allow demonstrations in downtown Zion Square –
the central home of protests in the capital for decades – because they would
interrupt the service of the light rail, police said on Wednesday.
issue first came to light this week, when the Social Justice Movement, an
organization made up of activists from last summer’s tent protests, attempted to
get a permit from police to hold a 5,000-person demonstration this Saturday
night in Zion Square.
The social justice protest organizers wanted to
follow the same route of many of last year’s Saturday night protests, from
Menorah Park (“Horse Park”), down Ben- Yehuda Street to Zion Square. Police
refused to grant them a permit for Zion Square, though the sides eventually
agreed on Agron Street as an alternative site for Saturday night’s
The protest will pass through Zion Square but will not be
allowed to congregate and the train will continue to run on schedule. King
George Street will be closed to traffic when the march begins but will be open
once the protesters move towards Ben-Yehuda Street.
The Jerusalem Light
Rail only opened to the public in August of last year, so it was not affected by
last summer’s protests.
On Saturday night, simultaneous social justice
marches will take place in Tel Aviv and Haifa as the official kick-off for what
organizers hope will be another summer of massive protests.
The leader of
the Jerusalem branch of the social movement, Rona Oravano, hailed the decision
to hold Saturday’s protest on Agron Street as a victory for the activists.
Originally, police had threatened to grant a permit only if the activists
promised not to hold any more protests during the summer.
“They said that
[last year] we closed all of the routes every week and they don’t want us to do
that again,” Oravano said.
The social movement activists and the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel plan to petition the High Court of
Justice over the issue of using Zion Square for protests.
policy does not abide by the constitutional status of the right to demonstrate
and clearly contradicts court rulings, which require maintaining a balance
between the right to protest and temporary and specific disturbances to
traffic,” said ACRI attorney Sharona Eliahu-Chai in a statement released by her
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben- Ruby said that
demonstrations cannot stop the light rail because so much of the city’s public
transportation system is now dependent on the train.
“The moment you have
a big demonstration in Zion Square, it stops all of the movement from the west
to east and people won’t have the ability to use public transportation,” said
Ben- Ruby. He said smaller demonstrations will still be able to happen in Zion
Square but there will no longer be an opportunity for thousands to gather as in