Israelis protested the judicial reform across Israel on Saturday for the 12th week in a row, continuing a cycle of protests that have been conducted weekly since the beginning of January.
In Tel Aviv more than 200,000 protestors gathered at Kaplan in Tel Aviv. They lit torches in memory of women who have been murdered by their partners and took part in a march.
Protestors blocked the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, and 28 were arrested, an Israel Police statement said. Police also used a water canon on those blocking the highway.
Former MK Tzippy Livni and spy Eli Cohen's daughter Sophie Ben-Dor made speeches in Tel Aviv calling for the government to listen.
In Or Akiva, Israel Police had to ward off a right-wing activist who tried to sic his dog on protestors. Thousands of people from both sides of the conflict protested mere meters from each other.
Police said they arrested 10 protestors in Or Akiva for disturbing the public order.
In Netanya, tires were slashed surrounding protests Saturday evening, impacting at least 5 cars.
In Haifa, thousands marched to Merkaz Horev where opposition MKs and Nobel Prize winner Prof. Aharon Chachnober were scheduled to speak.
In total, more than demonstrations were held at more than 150 locations throughout the country including Ramle and Beit She'an where protests were held for the first time.
Increased crowds and participation expected
One protester told The Jerusalem Post that he had previously been hit by officers as violence at protests continued to rise. Josh Drill, a spokesperson from the Umbrella Movement and a participant in months of protests, told The Jerusalem Post about his experiences in weeks past and what other participants expect to come from demonstrations Saturday evening.
Drill, who moved to Israel in 2014 and served as an officer in the Golani Brigade, is a current Tel Aviv University student and has been continuously involved in the protest movement.
"What we think is going to happen tonight is that there will probably be an unprecedented amount of people. They understand Netanyahu gaslights the Israeli public. In his speech, he said many words, but he didn’t really say anything,” Drill said. "Now, more people than ever know the risks at hand. As a result, two new cities involved, Ramle and Beit She'an, are typically Likud [supporting] cities. The fact that we have protests up there right now is a sign of worry for Netanyahu. This is supposed to be his headquarters, his political base."
"Netanyahu's lies have demonstrated that he is determined to fight against the values of Israel's Declaration of Independence, determined to destroy the Israeli economy, and the people's army."Spokesperson for the Umbrella Movement
"Netanyahu's lies have demonstrated that he is determined to fight against the values of Israel's Declaration of Independence, determined to destroy the Israeli economy, and the people's army," the Umbrella Movement leadership announced in a statement. "The fate of the country now lies in the hands of Israelis who will take to the streets and decide whether Israel will become a dictatorship or not. Israel’s story must continue as a democracy. We call on all Israeli citizens to stand up tonight for the values of freedom."
However, protesters continue to express the need for a different term to describe the movements of government action. Israelis both at home and overseas have expressed concern for what many are referring to as a coup by the current coalition, leading many to believe the nation is heading away from its democratic processes and into dictatorship.
Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the judicial reform have also continued in London during an official state visit earlier this week. On Saturday, demonstrations against Israel's coalition and reforms have continued outside of Israel, in New Jersey, Israeli media reported.
Protesters not convinced by Gallant's remarks
After Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's speech Saturday night that called for a stall in judicial reform legislation, protest organizers commented on what they believed was disingenuous. The leadership of the Umbrella Movement responded to the Likud’s call for a temporary halt of what has been continually called a judicial coup in a statement.
“We were not born yesterday and we are not protesting for a temporary freeze of the judicial coup. We will not fall asleep. We demand a complete repeal of the legislation, and until then, the struggle will only intensify."