Meretz leaves TA council coalition in protest

Artists and clubs boycott White Night in solidarity with social justice protests.

Social protesters block Ayalon (2) 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Social protesters block Ayalon (2) 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi and the rest of the three-member Meretz faction pulled out of the Tel Aviv City Council on Tuesday in protest of police violence against demonstrators last Saturday night and the leadership of Mayor Ron Huldai.
In a letter sent to Huldai on Tuesday, Lahavi said the mayor “has become a leader of the policy of oppressing and sabotaging the social protest in collaboration with the police, which is being deployed for political reasons.”
“Last weekend Ron Huldai crossed a red line and switched from being the representative of the residents of the city, to serving the leadership which is trying to put down the protest,” she said.
Lahavi added that she sees the social justice protest as the best chance for bringing a change in Israeli society and “real solidarity in Israel and Tel Aviv.”
On Monday night, a group of around 100 protesters disrupted a meeting of the Tel Aviv City Council that was cancelled due to the rowdy behavior of the activists, who shouted down speakers and called on Meretz and Lahavi to leave the coalition.
After the meeting was adjourned, Lahavi was swarmed by dozens of protesters as she left the building, who followed her down an escalator towards the parking lot shouting at her to leave the coalition, with at least one trying to throw water at her.
Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz faction said that the protest Monday night had nothing to do with the decision to leave the city council, which was made because Ron Huldai “has made himself the leader of the fight against the protest movement, by sending his municipality clerks last Friday to break up the protest tents.”
With 11 councilmen, the opposition can now order city council meetings at will without attaining the approval of the coalition.
After news of the Meretz defection broke Tuesday, activists began a call for the three councilmen from the Rov Ha’Ir faction to resign, including Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir.
“At the moment we are continuing our current policy, which is to continue to support the protest movement but to do so from within the coalition,” Rov Ha’Ir member Yaniv Weitzman said Tuesday.
Weitzman added that while Meretz’s resignation will not bring down the coalition, “it’s still a big loss because in a city like Tel Aviv the Meretz faction supports many important endeavors.”
News of the defection came just two days before Tel Aviv is set to hold its annual White Night (Layla Lavan) festivities, a night of music, art and cultural exhibits across the city that runs into the early morning hours. The event sees art galleries, restaurants and fashion houses stay open long after normal closing hours in order to hold special events, both formal and informal.
The night is one of the most popular annual celebrations in Tel Aviv and brings tens of thousands of revelers into the city.
Activists have called on artists and club owners to boycott the event, and according to Alon Lee- Green, one of the more prominent leaders of the protest movement today, activists plan to hold protest marches through the streets in a number of locations in the city while White Night is being held.
Cancellations have included a night of concerts that was to be held at the Ozen bar, a literary event that was to include Israeli author Etgar Keret, and a concert by the Israeli band Girafot.
According to the Facebook page Black Night – The White List, which is compiling the names of artists agreeing to boycott, the list of those who won’t be taking part in the festivities continues to grow.
As of Tuesday evening those boycotting White Night also included 12 art galleries and nine different fashion houses.
The Tel Aviv Municipality said on Tuesday that “White Night includes hundreds of cultural, musical and artistic events, most of which are free of charge, in order to make them available to a wide crowd.”
“The City Hall hopes that White Night will be a night of culture and music, for all those who decide to take part,” it said.
In regard to the intention to demonstrate, the municipality said: “It’s important to note that the city of Tel Aviv allows the use of the public space for holding protests and sees the protest as a legitimate and just act. That said, the public sphere is for the use of all of the public and the city believes in finding a balance between the right to protest and the preservation of public order and concern for the rights of its citizens.”
The city added that it is “distressed” by the “serious violence shown by protesters against municipality workers, which is something that did not characterize the struggle of last year. “It’s a shame that people are trying to exploit the legitimate protest in order to make violent acts like punching, spitting, and throwing insults at municipality workers.”
The municipality did not say how they think the calls to boycott would affect White Night.
Activists have planned alternative White Night events, including two in the city’s South side.
One event, “A Night of Black Culture in Neve Shannan,” will be held at the corner of Matalon and Tchelnov Streets at 6 p.m. and include a meeting of residents of south Tel Aviv and members of the African migrant community.
There will also be a photo exhibit by the photographers’ collective “Activestills” taken at protests in south Tel Aviv over the past year, and a “black street party.”
South Tel Aviv will also host a “protest party” in the Shapira neighborhood.
Earlier in the evening, a demonstration will be held at the corner of King George and Ben-Tzion Streets in the heart of central Tel Aviv.