J'lem: Tent-city protesters to head to Knesset

Protesters: Move to Wohl Rose Park meant to be in conjunction with housing-reform vote; J'lem mayor tells protesters to stay in IDF square.

Tent City 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tent City 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Demonstrators in Jerusalem protesting against what they call exorbitant rent prices across the country said Friday that they would move their tent-city this upcoming Sunday to Wohl Rose Park opposite the Knesset, Israel Radio reported.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had asked the protesters to leave Kikar Tzahal (IDF Square), opposite the Old City Walls, by Thursday afternoon, as the area is a heavily-traveled tourist area. Protesters refused to leave the premises on Friday morning but said they were in discussions with the municipality about possibly relocating.
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According to protesters, the move on Sunday is significant because on Monday, Knesset members are going to vote on housing reform which both would streamline the bureaucratic process necessary to begin construction of housing units, but would also allocate apartments for for rent.
Organizers of the tent gathering in Tel Aviv had called upon all elements of the protest taking place across the country to join together for a mass rally.
"We are announcing a massive demonstration on this coming Shabbat,"  organizer and freelance filmmaker Daphni Leef said.
"The 23rd of July 2011. We call on all of the tent cities from across Israel to come to the tent city [in Tel Aviv]. We will lay our demands before the government of Israel and regain our rights.
On Thursday evening, hundreds of protesters from the Tel Aviv tent city took part in a torch-lit march through the city’s center, ahead of a mass protest march and rally planned for Saturday night at the Tel Aviv Museum.
The march set off from the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard and continued to the Gindi Towers luxury complex on Rehov Ibn Gvirol.
Leef said the torchlight parade was meant to be a preview of Saturday’s rally.
She added that buses have been organized to bring protesters from tent cities across Israel, who will converge on Rothschild, before marching to the Tel Aviv Museum at 9 p.m. Police and the municipality have approved the march, and no politicians will be invited or allowed to speak at the rally, she said.
“It’s a peoples’ struggle for all of the public and has crossed all lines, because there are some things that are above all arguments,” Leef said.
When asked what she would do if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called and asked to speak at the rally, she said “he should come to listen. This is not for politicians. This is a collective dialogue.”
By Thursday, the tent city on Rothschild, the epicenter of the protest movement, stretched past the intersection with Rehov Sheinkin street toward Rehov Allenby. The crowd was a bit thinner during the midday heat and there appeared to be less of a media presence than in previous days.
There was, however, a cameraman from Channel 2 who left the scene after he was accosted by a pair of protesters who shouted slurs about the Israeli media and tried to smash his camera.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.