Thousands begin gathering in TA ahead of mass demonstration

Hundreds march from south TA to main tent city on Rothschild Blvd. ahead of what protesters say will be "mother of all demonstrations," over high cost of living; police close several streets in TA before protests.

By JPOST.COM STAFF,
August 6, 2011 19:55
4 minute read.
Protesters march on Tel Aviv's Kaplan Street, Sat.

saturday housing protest tel aviv_311. (photo credit: Channel 10 News)

 
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Thousands of people on Saturday began gathering at Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard and Habima Square in preparation for a massive demonstration over the high cost of living, expected to being at 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, hundreds began march from the tent city at Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv to Rothschild Boulevard, where they will link up with the main campsite ahead of the larger march.

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The activists will set out from the Rothschild tent city at 9 p.m. 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.

Earlier Saturday, police began deploying and roads were closed to traffic over 12 hours before a mass rally that social justice organizers hope will top last week's estimated nationwide turnout of 150,000, saying that after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu passed his housing reform law in the Kneest, "there's more anger now.

Rehov Kaplan in Tel Aviv, a major traffic artery, was closed to traffic. Other Tel Aviv streets will be closed Saturday evening ahead of the third weekly march put on by the housing movement calling for "social justice."

Stretches of Ibn Gvirol, Dizengoff, Ben Zion and Rothschild were closed down at 7pm ahead of the march. Police were deploying in large numbers Saturday morning, with hundreds set to take to the streets to protect marchers and maintain order ahead of the rally. Kaplan was expected to reopen at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, while the other streets were expected to reopen for traffic shortly after midnight.

Furious over what they call repeated government rejection of their demands, protesters hope to hold “the mother of all demonstrations” across Israel on Saturday.

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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.

"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.

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.”

In a move that will likely bolster the already-large protests taking place for over three weeks, Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini on Friday called on all workers to join the central march in Tel Aviv.

In an interview with Channel 2 news Eini said "I call on the workers tomorrow to join the protest and make sure it has a powerful impact so that we can succeed in making a change in this country."

Eini said that the Histadrut leadership "represents 800,000 families from every echelon of society. If all these people come tomorrow in an organized fashion and join the protest, things will happen, and that's what I'm trying to initiate."

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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 in Jerusalem. The rally at Paris Square in Jerusalem will begin with a march from the campsite at Gan Hasus to Zion Square, before making its way through Independence Park to Paris Square.

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.”

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