Tensions, clashes take over anti-Netanyahu protests

The largest and "central" protest took place in Habima Square in Tel Aviv with hundreds and possibly thousands of protesters in attendance.

Israelis protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at Dizengoff Square Tel Aviv on October 10, 2020 (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Israelis protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at Dizengoff Square Tel Aviv on October 10, 2020
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Tens of thousands of protesters went to the streets on Saturday night, only this time, each was a tad closer to home than Balfour Street in Jerusalem due to the current coronavirus restrictions.
 Expressing their continued dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership and government corruption for the 16th straight week, demonstrators nationwide at over 1,000 locations cried out, “This is Balfour, too,” arguing that their lack of proximity to Netanyahu’s official residence does not make a difference to the movement.
The largest and “central” protest took place in Habima Square in Tel Aviv with hundreds and possibly thousands of protesters in attendance. Hundreds of protesters also attended the demonstrations in Mevaseret Zion.
The protesters in Habima Square began a march to Even Gvirol Street in a move that was deemed illegal by police due to the distance limit under the current coronavirus restrictions. Israel Police claimed that since the demonstrators were taking up central roads and not keeping the proper social distancing measures, they were putting the public in danger.
Police enforcements there, as well as at other known locations of protests, stood at the ready. Their presence was reportedly tense as previous Tel Aviv protests led to serious clashes between demonstrators and police. The previous week, 38 protesters were arrested.
During the allegedly illegal march in Tel Aviv, clashes began between police and demonstrators, during which a handful of protesters were arrested. Police had created a barricade along the path of the protesters’ march to stop their movement. Protesters eventually broke through the barricade and continued on their march.
Police claimed that the protesters who had broken through the barricade in Tel Aviv had "attacked them by throwing objects" and that "a number of police officers were hurt and treated on the spot."
One Tel Aviv protester was arrested when she was caught spray painting a police vehicle.
Protesters the previous week were also met with violence from non-protesters. Some were attacked by counter-demonstrators throwing fists while others were met with those throwing stones.
Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, the usual central location of protests before Israel went into lockdown, was empty on Saturday, as it was one week prior. Less than 100 protesters gathered in Paris Square, crying out against Netanyahu. Some of them were members of the No Way protest movement which had rented an apartment nearby so that, legally, they are permitted to attend the protest at Balfour.
A group of the protesters in Balfour attempted to march down the road, but police blocked the way. Four of the marchers were stopped or arrested by police.
As such, protesters in Jerusalem reported that a right-wing activist threw a large rock at them and pulled the flag out of the hand of one of the protesters by force. Demonstrators claimed that when they approached a police officer for help, the officer refused to intervene, but rather checked their identification to make sure that they were keeping the maximum proper distance from their homes.
Eggs, stones and cans were thrown at protesters in Jerusalem in Pat Junction throughout the demonstration there. Protesters claimed that it took police a good while to arrive on the scene despite being called several times.
A group of bicyclists attempted to ride past Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea on Saturday morning to protest his leadership of the state, but were blocked from doing so by police, who stood at the ready and fined them.
Some 120 protesters attempted to enter the area. The current law states that in Israel protesters may only attend demonstrations in groups no larger than 20 people and within a one-km. radius of their homes. In contrast, people who head outside to exercise do not have a distance limit.
Bicycle-riders came to protest outside Netanyahu’s home, as riding bicycles may be considered exercise. They were fined nevertheless.
Ahead of Saturday night’s demonstrations, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz expressed the need to lessen aggression toward protesters on Friday afternoon when he spoke to Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen.
“Increase police presence at demonstrations,” he requested of Ohana and Cohen. “The increase of violence against protesters may reach the point of murder. There is a real concern for human lives.”
Gantz requested that the police focus their efforts, in addition to maintaining coronavirus regulations, on preventing violence toward protesters through reinforcements. He condemned all violence towards police officers, as well as non-compliance with instructions.
The statement comes amid growing concern over clashes, not only between non-protesters and protesters, but also between police and protesters, as numerous demonstrators were arrested one week prior at the large demonstration in Tel Aviv.
A large wave of protests, much like the previous week, is expected on Saturday evening.
As a sign of protest this coming Saturday, protesters will light torches, flashlights, lighters and any other illuminations for five minutes starting at 7:00 p.m. as a show of solidarity in “illuminating the state.”