Protest leader Stav Shaffir on Sunday denounced protester violence in Tel Aviv the night before, but
accused the government of trying to delegitimize the social protest
"We are opposed to all expression of violence and
destruction of property," Shaffir said in a statement. "The government,
and its leader, are trying to delegitimize the largest social protest in
that the government wants to silence criticism, Shaffir added, "The
events of last night prove that the public does not buy these lies and
it is determined to struggle toward the future of Israeli society, and
the right to organize in the public sphere."
In what was the most
violent encounter between social justice protesters and police since
the protest movement began last summer, over two thousand protesters
clashed with police in central Tel Aviv Saturday night, against what
they said was police brutality at a protest the day before.
Yarkon police sub-district commander Yoram Ohayon on Sunday denied reports that
police used excessive violence in dealing with protesters. "Police
brutality is not a term in our lexicon," he said. Responding to
activists' complaints that the authorizes have decided to silence the
movement, Ohayon says: "There is no change in policy in dealing with the
Protesters broke windows at three different bank branches in central
Tel Aviv and managed to block off the Ayalon Freeway for around a half
hour during the mayhem. Shafir joined a group of several other
protesters who rushed inside the ATM lobby of the Bank Hapoalim on Ibn
Gvirol and began banging on the glass. Shafir and the rest left moments
before someone smashed the window from the outside.
Tel Aviv police spokesman Moshe Katz said Sunday
that demonstrators ignored police calls to disperse the marches and
continued to block the roads and confront police officers. By the end of
the night police announced the
arrests of 85 protesters, including over 30 who were seen being driven
away from the City Hall in a Dan bus that had been commandeered by
police. On Sunday afternoon, 15 suspects were to be brought before a
court for a remand hearing.
Most of the arrests took place outside the city hall and the Bank Leumi
branch at Gan Hair Mall next door, where protestors had rushed inside
with a tent and smashed two outside windows. Moments earlier protesters
broke the front window of a Bank Hapoalim branch a few meters away, and
on the way to the Ayalon two men threw paving stones at a Bank Hapoalim
branch of Arlozorov, breaking a window. Protesters also rushed into a
Discount Bank branch on Ibn Gvirol, but did not make any lasting damage,
mainly just throwing paper in the air and making a mess before they
were cleared out.
the large number of arrests, at many times during the night police
appeared to hold back, most glaringly during the short-lived blocking of
the Ayalon. Police made no arrests of protestors blocking the highway,
rather, they allowed them to stop traffic and then march on the Ayalon
from Arlozorov train station to the Hashalom exit next to Arieli mall.
Among the hundreds of people marching were only a few Special Patrol Officers
walking along the concrete divider in a single file line.
at a short press briefing held late Saturday night outside the
shattered front window of a Bank Hapoalim branch, Tel Aviv District
Police Commander Major General Aharon Aksol said that protestors had
thrown rocks and spit at police and in general used violence throughout
Aksol said the demonstrators “crossed all
possible red lines” adding that police “carried out more than a few
arrests tonight and we will work to see that indictments are brought
against all of those arrested as soon as possible.”
He said when
the march, which began at Habima, reached Ibn Gvirol, “That group of
violent thugs who are not from the ‘social justice’ crowd breaking into
banks. This group does not really represent social justice.”
said that throughout the night police made the decision to step back
and allow protestors to block streets, including the Ayalon Freeway,
avoiding a confrontation while allowing the protestors to burn off
Saturday night protest took place a day after police
arrested protest leader Daphni Leef and 12 others at a demonstration
Friday, during which activists attempted to re-establish the protest
camp on Rothschild Boulevard that served as a symbol of the 2011 summer
Leef was also at Saturday night’s protest,
where her arm was heavily bandaged from an injury she said she suffered
during her arrest. Leef also said the incident left her with two bruised
Police said Saturday night that they did not think that
Leef’s arrest had played a role in making the protests the next night as
intense as they were, saying that certain protestors had planned ahead
of time on making the protest violent.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On on Saturday slammed the Israel Police’s treatment of social justice protesters on Friday night.
Israel Police is behaving as it would in a police state, rather than a
democratic state," she said. "It has become a political repressive
instrument of the government, against all groups that protest against
it. We saw on Rothschild Boulevard how the police are serving the
government rather than the law."
'Growing evidence police used excessive force'
Opposition leader Shelly
Yechimovich said Friday that evidence was growing to suggest police used
excessive force in their breaking up of a social justice protest in
central Tel Aviv on Friday at the site of last summer's Rothschild Tent
Yechimovich stated that protesters, old and young alike,
were beaten, and actor Tomer Sharon and social justice movement leader
Daphne Leef were arrested for no reason.
"Despite the fact that
Public Security Minister [Yitzhak] Aharonovitch told me clearly in the
Knesset that there was no order from on high to take harsh steps against
the movement's protesters, it turns out that the government and its
operational branches have decided not to enable the existence of
democratic protests this summer," Yechimovich stated.
Nitzan Horowitz called the police's arrests of social justice activists
on Friday "brutal" and proof that "the government is afraid and doing
all in its power to block the renewal of the protest movement."
added: "The activists returned to the streets because nothing they were
promised last summer was delivered, the situation only worsened."