Haredi arrests spark protest in Jerusalem

Six policeman injured, five other demonstrators detained as hundreds throw rocks, steel bars and Molotov cocktails at authorities.

Haredi riot 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Haredi riot 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An arrest for tax evasion in the Mea Sha’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem degenerated into violence on Wednesday morning, when hundreds of ultra Orthodox protesters threw rocks, steel bars, and Molotov cocktails at the municipality officials and police.
Police were accompanying the officials on their raid of the poultry slaughterhouse belonging to Yoelish Krois, the unofficial 'operations officer' of the Eda Haredit, the small anti-Zionist extreme haredi group. Krois's business has been operating for some ten years without the proper licenses.
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Five demonstrators were arrested, and six policemen were injured. Five of the policemen were treated on the scene, and one was evacuated to the hospital with a head injury. Police used force to disperse the demonstrators, who protested from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Krois was arrested along with one other businessman from the area. The Tax Authority said the arrests came after a complicated undercover investigation, which revealed that both men were not reporting large amounts of income. During the arrests, officials also raided the homes and businesses of the two suspects, and said they found paperwork and information that proved the two had been involved in tax evasion.
A municipality spokeswoman added that the slaughterhouse had received an order to close in 2004, and that every time municipality veterinary officials tried to inspect the premises, they were met with threats and physical violence.
Police rejected the claim that the raid and arrest took place to prevent Krois from holding a press conference planned for later in the day, in which he was set to announce the escalation in the Shabbat demonstrations of Jerusalem members of the Eda Haredit.
In recent Saturday afternoons over the past two months, haredi protesters have reached Rehov Hanevi'im and thrown stones at cars driving down the road while attempted to block the street. HaNevi’im is the central traffic artery in downtown Jerusalem, now that Rehov Yaffo has been closed for cars in favor of the nascent light rail.
Secular activists have been protesting at the site, and claiming that police were not taking the sufficient efforts to prevent the road's closure and protect cars from stones.
Army radio reported on Wednesday morning that Eda Haredit was set to announce that they would be requesting that the municipality close 42 roads on Shabbat. The request is based on the “Bar Ilan” case, when ultra-Orthodox demonstrated 15 years ago for the closure of Bar Ilan Street. The street became a symbol of the clashes between religious and secular populations in Jerusalem. The eventual agreement was that the street will be closed to traffic during prayer times.
The ensuing High Court of Justice ruling found that if 75% of the residents along a street wanted it to be closed during Shabbat, the municipality had the authority to do so without consulting other groups or bringing it before the city council.

Eda Haredit has identified 42 streets where 75% or more of the residents want the streets to be closed to traffic on Shabbat, sources told Army Radio.
A municipality spokeswoman said the municipality had not received any requests from Eda Haredit. “We’re not familiar with any request that would upset the status quo in the city and the item is not on the agenda,” she said.