Tel Aviv: 13 arrested in tent protest clash with police

Violence breaks out between demonstrators and officials when municipality try to shut pirated electricity in Levinsky Park camp site.

South Tel Aviv tent city 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
South Tel Aviv tent city 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Around a dozen people were arrested during a violent confrontation with police at the Lewinsky Park tent city in south Tel Aviv on Monday.
The fracas erupted after municipality clerks escorted by two police officers arrived at the tent city in the late afternoon to dismantle the site’s pirated electricity hookup.
While there are conflicting narratives between the tent city residents and the police and municipality workers, what is clear is that a clash started and police ended up arresting 12 people at the scene.
According to tent city activist Kobi Shahar, when the police and clerks came to dismantle the electricity a resident took off his shirt and yelled at them, at which point police attacked him and used a taser gun to subdue him.
"Rothschild tent encampment to be evacuated, court rules
Shahar also said that a couple dozen YASSAM riot police filed out of the Lewinsky police station and began arresting people and confiscating and breaking cell phones after people began taking their pictures. Shahar and other people at the scene added that police began to trample through the tent city, using knives to slice holes in tents and vandalize the property within.
While it hasn’t been proven that police willfully vandalized the tent city, the site was in disarray Monday afternoon with clothes, mattresses and personal belongings scattered across the site. In addition, several of the tents were broken down or had large holes cut in them.
Police and the Tel Aviv Municipality maintain that a Molotov cocktail and rocks were thrown at municipality workers and the police, a claim that could not be verified.
While residents of the tent city said nothing was thrown at police, a photographer at the scene said he saw protesters throw some sort of smoking object at the Lewinsky station, and showed photos he took of police walking through the smoke. He also stated that the violence from police only began after the object was thrown.
In a statement issued following the clashes, the Tel Aviv Municipality said that “the throwing of a Molotov cocktail, stones and glass bottles at municipality workers are violent and unacceptable actions. The city of Tel Aviv did not attempt to carry out an eviction of the Lewinsky tent city and respects the ruling issued by the Tel Aviv District Court.
“The municipality workers came to the site in order to disconnect a dangerous pirated electricity source, and according to what police told us, people threw a Molotov cocktail and stones at them.”
At one point Monday afternoon, Mario Barretti, the owner of a series of furniture stores across from the park, went to Lewinsky and began arguing with protesters.
When asked why he went to the park to confront the protesters, Barretti said “I’ve owned these stores here for over 25 years. What is happening here has nothing to do with the [social issues] protest movement.”
Barretti described the tent city at Lewinsky, located in one of Tel Aviv’s poorest neighborhoods, as being a den of iniquity, where African refugees and homeless drug addicts while away the days injecting and smoking drugs and creating a public menace.
“I supported the protests, I think it’s great that they came. There aren’t enough apartments in Israel, prices are too high, and daycare is too expensive. But this, this is something else. They’ve created a house for drug addicts and the homeless to take over.”
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report