Meretz MK addresses minimum wage protestors.
(photo credit: ANAT VARDIMON)
One day after announcing a ban against disabled demonstrators blocking highways to protest the government’s monthly disability stipend, police on Monday morning promptly removed protesters and for the first time fined them.
Roughly one dozen demonstrators blocked the Latrun Interchange between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu increase the monthly disability allocations to match minimum wage.
It was one of several similar protests that disrupted highway traffic since Netanyahu announced earlier this month that the payments allocated over four years will remain unchanged.
According to the protesters, the monthly stipend of NIS 2,342 has remained stagnant for the past 16 years, despite inflation.
After being peacefully removed and fined NIS 500 each, Disabled Panthers, one of three advocacy NGOs coordinating the protests, said they would cease blocking highways pending a meeting with police scheduled for Tuesday.
“Afterwards, we will decide on our next steps and what form our struggle will take,” the organization said in a statement.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the new policy to ban the ongoing protests from blocking traffic was made after thousands of complaints from commuters who were trapped in the group’s crosshairs.
“Israeli Police have changed their policy in terms of the illegal demonstrations taking place by protesters who are using the roads to disrupt everyday life in different areas of the country,” Rosenfeld said. “To deal with the protests that have been taking place over the past few weeks, including today’s, police units arrived at the scene and quickly removed a number of vehicles that were blocking the roads to allow traffic to safely resume.”
The police, Rosenfeld added, used heightened sensitivity to disperse the disabled group on Monday.
“The officers who responded to Monday’s dispersal were careful to use sensitivity to ensure the protesters were removed without any incidents,” he said.