50 detained, 8 arrested as police clash with protesters in Jerusalem

"Protesters who stood on the sides of the road and did nothing to block roads or move barriers also got this cannon mercilessly. It was all just horrible to see," one of the protesters said.

Police clash with protesters during demonstrations near the residence of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 14/07/20 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Police clash with protesters during demonstrations near the residence of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 14/07/20
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel Police detained 50 people for interrogation early Wednesday, eight of whom were brought into court in the following hours, after violent clashes between demonstrators and police officers engulfed downtown Jerusalem late Tuesday.
Police have opened an investigation into an incident during which protesters allegedly assaulted a detective while trying to make an arrest.
Thousands protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday late into the night, blocking the road in front of the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence and later clashing with police throughout the city center.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana vowed on Wednesday to take action to prevent police from using violence against protesters, but he also called recent protests violent and urged the public not to come, due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking at a press conference at the police’s Jerusalem headquarters, Ohana singled out a protest on Saturday night in Tel Aviv and Tuesday night’s protest in Jerusalem.
“What has been happening makes my heart cringe,” Ohana said. “I am working with the police on solutions. I will say this clearly: There is no place for violent police in Israel.”
Ohana urged both the police and the public to be more respectful of each other, noting that it is not the police who decide to close down a city or require the wearing of masks, but the public takes out its wrath on them. He vowed to select a new police chief within a month who will help set new policies.
“There is [something] to fix within the police,” he said. “There should be more patience and tolerance. We just started. Changes of this size do not happen within a couple months.”
Ohana called the recent anti-Netanyahu protests “anarchy” and that they were encouraged by opposition MKs. He referred to Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll, who stated in a tweet on Tuesday that the government has “no legitimacy to order a closure and the public doesn’t need to obey [regulations].”
“When an MK says that a government that has the support of most of the people is illegitimate and says its decisions do not have to be heeded, that is rebellion,” Ohana said. “There were elections in Israel, and after three intense races, the public decided to put an end to the rift and form a unity government. The protests lately that use the word ‘democracy’ in vain are anarchy.”
Ohana also complained about recent statements by celebrities against Netanyahu, his wife and son, and called on Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn to stop Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit from taking powers away from police.
Jerusalem District Police commander Doron Yedid labeled the protest as “left-wing” in a late-night statement to reporters.
“It was a pretty violent event – we have not experienced such an event here,” he said. Protesters who overheard Yedid’s interview interrupted him, shouting that the characterization was “nonsense.”
Surveillance video showed protesters trying to wrestle a police officer off a protester as he was using a choke hold while making the arrest, while other protesters can be seen telling others to back away. One woman was seen hugging the man while he was being arrested, not letting go until additional officers arrived.
On social media, police were heavily criticized for their use of water cannons to clear away peaceful protesters as they were sitting on the road.
Ido Zohar, a local music student who witnessed the event, told The Jerusalem Post: “Protesters sat on the floor, basically the most nonviolent act of resistance that could be done, and what did the police see fit to do? Shoot at them with this cannon for a few consecutive minutes, while these amazingly brave people just kept sitting, taking the blows of the cannon, completely soaked by the water.
“Protesters who stood on the sides of the road and did nothing to block roads or move barriers also got this cannon mercilessly,” he added. “It was all just horrible to see.”
“This is the beginning of the revolution,” one protester said of the protest during an interview with KAN on Wednesday, after he was brought into court and released.
When asked whether he justified the “anarchy” which was seen on the streets during the protests, the young man said, “I saw no anarchy. I saw people with hope.”
The man said he was arrested for practicing his democratic right to protest, blaming the police for arresting people as an “easier way” to stop the protests.
Channel 13 journalist Avishay Ben Haim said he had been assaulted while reporting at the event. Video shows a protester forcefully taking Ben Haim’s microphone and yelling, before a different protester knocks the microphone out of his hand.
Netanyahu tweeted that “the shameful attack yesterday during the Left’s demonstration on journalist Dr. Avishay Ben Haim, together with the violence that raged there against police, deserves all condemnation. Shame and disgrace.”
In response to Netanyahu’s comments prior to the protest, the Black Flag movement, one of the organizers of the protests, said in a statement that “a prime minister who is busy with his trial from morning to night is unable to make time to deal with the economic-health crisis plaguing Israel. Netanyahu is inciting as usual against the thousands of young people who came to protest in front of his house as they’ve reached a state of starvation because of his failures.
“Netanyahu is dangerous to the future of the State of Israel and must vacate his seat. The protest will continue and intensify,” the statement concluded.”
Attorney Gonen Ben Itzhak, who represents the Black Flag movement, was among those arrested at the protest. He was released on Wednesday with no charges filed.