Demonstrators flock to Balfour after mass protest ban lifted

Organizers said that recent cases of "extreme violence" against protesters have been encouraged by incitement coming "from above."

Anti-Netanyahu protesters gather at Balfour on October 17 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Anti-Netanyahu protesters gather at Balfour on October 17
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Thousands of demonstrators flocked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night as mass protests resumed with new fervor after the ban on travel to protests expired Tuesday night.
Protesters had previously been prevented from traveling farther than 1,000 meters from their homes in order to protest, and had been allowed to protest in groups of no more than 20.
Protests took place all over the country with tens of thousands of protesters at “main” protests on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and Holon.
The Black Flag movement called for protesters to return to the central protest site outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street after “weeks of political lockdown, and illegal limitations on protests.”
The movement encouraged protesters to come and show Netanyahu that “it isn’t over until you leave.”
A caravan of protesters made its way into Jerusalem for a mass protest outside the residence. Tens of thousands gathered in the area, crying out against government corruption.
Hundreds of additional protesters in Jerusalem marched from Paris Square to Agron Street without having coordinated the march with the authorities, according to police. In the past, such marches have met police barricades, resulting in clashes between police and protesters. Nine people were arrested during the protest.
A man in Jerusalem was suspected of threatening people with a knife during the march, and was searched by police.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv, waving flags and holding signs. Protesters were maintaining distance from one another and volunteers in yellow vests could be seen keeping people in order.
Former minister Tzipi Livni spoke at the protest in Tel Aviv, saying that “Netanyahu has chosen to be the person who destroys democracy,” according to Israeli media.
A rock, thrown by an anti-protester, hit a protester in the head in Kiryat Ata, and police pursued the attacker. Protest organizers reported that pepper spray was sprayed at protesters from a passing car near Netanya. Police arrested three people suspected of the attack.
A couple protesting in Ramat Gan was also attacked and sprayed with pepper spray, according to Haaretz. The couple was cursed and threatened by the attacker.
A WOMAN in Haifa reported that pro-Netanyahu protesters repeatedly provoked and attacked anti-Netanyahu protesters from the group she was a part of and that she was injured, threatened and spat on by them during the confrontation.
Demonstrators in Jezreel Valley also told Haaretz that they were verbally attacked while protesting.
Police arrested a resident of northern Israel after he allegedly called for the murder of Jews and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers at a protest in Haifa, according to a police spokesperson.
A 60-year-old was suspected of threatening protesters in Ramat Gan. The man refused to identify himself to the police, resisted arrest, disturbed the peace and was subsequently arrested, according to the Police.
Two additional men were arrested for attacking protesters in Tel Aviv, according to the Police.
MK Ariel Kallner claimed that substantial funding for two of the many organizations involved in the protests comes from foreign charities and funds. Kallner claimed that Standing Together receives approximately NIS 300,000 from funds that are connected to the German government. He also claimed that the Human Rights Defenders Fund receives approximately NIS 400,000 from Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.
Organizers expressed concern for the safety of the protesters in the hours leading up to protests, saying that the recent cases of “extreme violence” against protesters have been encouraged by incitement coming “from above.”
Lawyer Gonen Ben Itzhak sent an urgent letter to Israel’s acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen before protests began, urging him to increase police presence at them in order to protect protesters, especially in Ness Ziona, Holon and Jerusalem. Ben Itzhak cited recent threats and attacks to explain his request for an increased police presence.
Ben Itzhak said that in the past 48 hours there have been calls for violence against protesters from multiple groups, including notorious far-right soccer fan club La Familia.
He finished the letter saying that “I hope there will be no bloodshed this evening, but if there is blood spilled, then no one can say that the writing was not on the wall.”
The police said in a statement Saturday that they are prepared for the protests and will work to “allow the freedom to protest for all citizens, and maintain public safety, order, and public health.” Police went on to emphasize that they will work to allow the protests to occur but will not allow “disturbance of public order and will work determinedly against any attempt to disrupt the order or hurt the function of the protests.”
Protesters have reported at previous protests that there was almost no response to the actions against them from anti-protest residents who would verbally and even physically attack them.
A response rally in support of Netanyahu is set to take place in Petah Tikva and is being organized by Likud activists.
Yonah Jeremy Bob and Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.