'Black Night' protesters in Tel Aviv 370 (R).
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / Reuters)
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
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.
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.
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
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
, including movement leader Daphni Leef. During the
Saturday protests demonstrators blocked off the Ayalon Freeway and vandalized
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
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said the
alternative protest was largely to send a message about “police
“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
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
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