Police arrest a haredi man protesting against the drafting of ultra-Orthodox into the IDF, October 2017.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Israel Police responded Saturday night to criticism of its handling of the blocking of major roads by ultra-Orthodox draft protesters two days earlier, saying officers worked carefully and cautiously to prevent further violence and deterioration of the situation.
“We removed individuals from the area without using excessive force and without using lethal weapons,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post.
Throughout Thursday, protesters from the extremist Jerusalem Faction group blocked main roads in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Safed and Bnei Brak.
In Jerusalem, they blocked the western entrance to the city and confronted policemen in the Mea She’arim neighborhood.
The protests lasted for some six hours.
A total of 120 protesters were arrested on Thursday, of which approximately 90 were released with restrictive conditions on Friday.
Rosenfeld dismissed claims that police were too easy on the protesters, allowing them to block roads and the Jerusalem Light Rail instead of dispersing them.
“At the same time we were dealing with the situation on the ground, we were working on other levels, meaning that our officers were in contact with leaders of the different communities, to prevent other people from being called to the area [to join the protest in Jerusalem].
“Over 2,000 [haredim] arrived in the area, but it could of been many, many more,” he said.
Using greater force, Rosenfeld said, would have led to greater violence.
“If we had used force, or if we had dispersed 2,000 rioters, I think that we would have had full-scale riots for over 48 hours,” he said.
“The police policy was to clear up the area carefully and as quick as possible, taking into consideration that we didn’t want” the situation to deteriorate.
“Otherwise, we could have had not only one night of disturbances, but we could of had days, a weekend or weeks of full-scale incidents and riots with the haredi community,” he said.
When asked if the police are considering the arrest of haredi leaders who incite and call on their public to disrupt the public order, Rosenfeld said they are investigating who is responsible for sending hundreds to protest, but that no such arrests are expected anytime soon. He said police have no indication of wide-scale protests planned for the coming week, but that they are prepared for any scenario.
“There is large-scale police preparation ahead of Sunday, not only in Jerusalem but across the country in different main junctions, in order to keep the roads open,” Rosenfeld said.
“If there will be any incidents, we will respond immediately in the same way, according to what’s happening on the ground. If there will be burning trash cans and stones are thrown, we will disperse whoever needs to be dispersed.”
Meanwhile, events continued over the weekend, on a smaller scale.
On Friday night, dozens of haredim arrived at the Russian Compound police detention station in Jerusalem to protest the previous day’s arrests.
At one point, the rioters tried to block police vehicles from entering the station but were soon dispersed.
On Saturday, some 200 ultra-Orthodox protesters marched from the capital’s Davidka Square along Hanevi’im Street to Mea She’arim. On the way, some of them confronted secular Jews who were protesting against religious coercion.
“You Nazis, leave our neighborhood,” one haredi shouted.
In response, the secular demonstrators played music via a megaphone (which is forbidden on Shabbat according to Jewish law).
No arrests were made during this demonstration.
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