Tent-city protesters vow to hold even larger demos

Organizers hope turnout will exceed 200,000 across the country; gathering to be "angrier" after passage of housing legislation.

August 5, 2011 01:55
3 minute read.
Protesters in Jerusalem

Protesters in Jerusalem 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Furious over what they call repeated government rejection of their demands, protesters hope to hold “the mother of all demonstrations” across Israel on Saturday – a week after an estimated 150,000 Israelis took to the streets in several cities to protest the soaring cost of living.

Roee Neuman, spokesman for the tent-city protest movement, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday evening that the size and intensity of Saturday night’s protests will be greatly influenced by the Knesset’s approval on Wednesday of the national housing committees law – a central sticking point for the movement.

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“For us, the passing of the law will be a huge influence on the demonstration, and is one of the main reasons that we called for it,” said Neuman.

“The vote on the law was an opportunity for the government to show how important the people are to them, and they said no. So it is our right and our responsibility to protest this.”

When asked if the protests will have a more aggressive and angry tone following the law’s approval, he replied, “that's for sure. There is much more anger now. At first, we were angry about a moderate situation, and now they’ve shown us that they aren’t going to let it be solved.”

The main protest in Tel Aviv will set out from the Rothschild tent city and head down Ibn Gvirol Boulevard to Kaplan Street, where the rally will be held along the entire length of the street, in front of the Interior Ministry building and the IDF headquarters.

Organizers say the boulevard will be able to hold far more people than Tel Aviv Museum, the site of the past two protests.

While the crowds gather in Tel Aviv, students plan on holding a demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s house in Jerusalem, after marching from the tent protest at Horse Park (Gan Hasus).

The cancellation of the law was one of eight preconditions for dialogue that was presented by tent city protesters on Tuesday.

The other preconditions included reducing indirect taxes, (in particular value added tax); increasing the budget for the Ministry of Housing and Construction’s Mortgage and Rental Assistance; investing surplus-tax revenues back to citizens by way of the state budget; implementation of the law on compulsory free education from three months of age; a halt to the privatization of welfare and mental health facilities; an increase in medical supplies and infrastructure at health facilities across Israel; and a gradual cancellation of private contractor-run construction projects in the public sector.

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Following last week’s impressive turnout – one of the largest demonstrations held in Israel in decades – there has been some skepticism over whether or not the movement would be able to repeat such an overwhelming participation.

According to Neuman, the question is a foregone conclusion. “I think that we are at our peak of momentum,” he said.

“There was the protest by the Histadrut today and the stroller marches across Israel, also. It’s only getting bigger and bigger, and people keep telling us ‘that’s it’ – but it just keeps growing.”

He said there are no concrete plans for people to block off traffic junctions, but that “it’s two days away. Two days is an eternity for us.”

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