Police to 'maintain rule of law' in Sheikh Jarrah protests

Spokesman tells 'Post' forces will continue to deploy during the weekly Friday protests.

Sheikh Jarrah eviction protest 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Sheikh Jarrah eviction protest 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Jerusalem Police will continue to deploy in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem during the weekly Friday protests there, in an effort to "uphold the rule of law," a police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Describing the situation in Sheikh Jarrah - where weekly demonstrations against the eviction of Palestinian residents from homes in the neighborhood have grown from a few dozen protesters to hundreds in only two months - the spokesman told the Post that while police did keep open channels of dialogue with the protest organizers, they would not tolerate violations of the law.
"If [the protesters] want to hold demonstrations, that's fine," the spokesman said. "But it must be done in an organized manner, and coordinated with us. They must have a permit to hold the demonstration, and they have to adhere to the conditions of that permit."
The spokesman added that a handful of demonstrations in the past had been organized and coordinated with the police, and had been held without incident.
"But they don't always ask for a permit, and they don't always adhere to its conditions," he said.
Those conditions include the set location of the protest and a stipulation that protesters do not block the roads or attempt to enter the Jewish homes in the neighborhood, the spokesman said.
"But last week for example," he added, "we allowed the protesters to hold their demonstration even though they had no permit. We gave them 40 minutes, we let them demonstrate, but at a certain point, enough is enough. Once they began blocking roads and trying to make their way towards the Jewish homes, we had no choice but to move in and clear them out."
Asked if the police planned on changing their response tactics towards the protesters due to a ruling by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court that arrests carried out during a demonstration in the neighborhood nearly two weeks ago had been illegal, the spokesman said that police would "continue to uphold the rule of law in the area."
"We will do what we have to do to keep order," he said, "but as far as what we have planned for this coming Friday, I'm not at liberty to divulge that information, as it could compromise our efforts."
"However," he added, "I do hope the protesters don't resort to provocative behavior. As long as they don't, there won't be any problem."
Nonetheless, protesters have been virulent in their assertions that the police are "suppressing free speech" during the weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah, and have alleged that strong-armed tactics and unwarranted arrests are being carried out indiscriminately.
While police dispute those assertions, the spokesman added that of the 21 protesters who were arrested during last Friday's demonstration, 18 had been released on Saturday night, with restraining orders, preventing them from entering Sheikh Jarrah and on the condition that they return to the Magistrate's Court on Tuesday for a hearing over those orders.
A Magistrate's Court spokesman told the Post on Tuesday evening that such a hearing had been held on Tuesday afternoon, although the judge had ordered the hearing to be rescheduled for Thursday. The status of the restraining orders remained unclear.
The additional three people who had been arrested, police said, were continuing to be held on Tuesday, as they were suspected of throwing rocks at a group of Jews during an incident that broke out near the demonstration on Friday.
Two of those detained were east Jerusalem residents, police said, and the third, a Danish national, had been transferred to the Oz unit, which deals mainly with apprehending illegal foreign workers.