'White Night' goes on despite protests

"Black Night" protest, march is held to demonstrate against police violence; city says 200,000 revelers participated in the festivities.

June 30, 2012 13:45
2 minute read.
'Black Night' protesters in Tel Aviv

'Black Night' protesters in Tel Aviv 370 (R). (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / Reuters)


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Tel Aviv’s annual White Night celebrations went off without a hitch on Thursday night despite plans by social justice activists to disrupt the evening’s street festivals and concerts following what they called police violence and the heavy-handed policies of Mayor Ron Huldai during protests the previous weekend.

The activists held an alternative series of events they dubbed “Black Night.” These included a march, street parties of their own and open-forums in south Tel Aviv between activists, locals and members of the African migrant community.

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At the center of the Black Night events was the protest march, which set out from Habima Square on Rothschild Boulevard, heading south toward Allenby and ending in south Tel Aviv.

The march began at around 9:30 p.m., with a few hundred people carrying tents and shouting slogans for social justice. The tents represented what came to be the symbol of last summer’s protests, when hundreds of them were erected on Rothschild Boulevard’s center island and elsewhere around the country, and occupied for several weeks.

Every few minutes the crowd encountered a stage that had been set up as part of the White Nights festivities and where live music was being performed. Activists ran on stage and seized microphones, temporarily disrupting the performances.

By and large the disruptions seemed to be at worst a short nuisance, although in a few instances band members invited protesters on stage and chanted along with them.

The previous Saturday night protesters held a march against police brutality to protest the events of the previous afternoon at Habimah Square, where police arrested 14 social justice demonstrators, including movement leader Daphni Leef. During the Saturday protests demonstrators blocked off the Ayalon Freeway and vandalized three banks.

Police arrested 89 people and were criticized for what many called an overly forceful response.

At Thursday’s Black Night protest march there were almost no uniformed police present. It appeared that senior officers had made the decision to hang back in order to avoid another highly-publicized confrontation.

Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said the alternative protest was largely to send a message about “police brutality.”

“It cannot be that in any city, and especially in a city like Tel Aviv, an event like this will be held without taking into account what happened here, right here, just a few days ago,” said Horowitz said.

Protester Oren Pasternack, for his part, said the Black Night march was about sending not only a message about social justice, but also about free speech and the right to demonstrate.

“[The protest march] is a continuation of the social justice struggle. We never stop, but this time it’s a fight about democracy, about our right to demonstrate,” Pasternack said.

The Black Night events followed a raucous Tel Aviv City Council meeting on Monday night, where some 100 protesters called on the Meretz faction to leave the coalition and shouted down city councillors, leading to the cancellation of the meeting.

The next morning, Deputy Mayor and Meretz faction head Meital Lehavi announced her faction was indeed leaving the municipality’s ruling coalition.

Among those boycotting the White Night festivities were 17 art galleries and music venues, although the effect was hard to see in the center of the city.

According to the municipality, some 200,000 revelers jammed the streets there, including 15,000 at Rabin Square who took part in what the municipality called “the world’s largest headphones party.”

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