'Police acted violently against protesters'

Social protest leader Stav Shaffir among 23 arrested in tent city protest, says officers "carried me while I was choking."

Protesters block street in south Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Or Yizhar and Orly Barlev)
Protesters block street in south Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Or Yizhar and Orly Barlev)
Police acted violently against Saturday night's demonstrators in south Tel Aviv, social justice movement leader Stav Shaffir told Army Radio on Sunday morning.
Shaffir was among the twenty three arrested during the demonstration against plans to remove protest tents in the Hatikva neighborhood. All but two of those arrested had been released as of Sunday morning.
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According to Shaffir, the rally was completely peaceful "and then at some point the police began to exact more violence against us than they usually do and to make arrests."
"A number of officers came towards me and dragged me to their vehicle. I did not understand what they were doing or why," she explained. "They carried me while I was choking."
Shaffir claimed that inside the vehicle the police began beating the protesters they had arrested. "I have not encountered such violence since serving in the army," she said.
According to Shaffir, weaker areas that are farther away from the center are subject to more violence from police than more central neighborhoods are. 
Tel Aviv district police denied using excessive force, and said, "This was an illegal protest in which activists blocked off central roads in south Tel Aviv."
Police said the protesters caused disturbances. "We carried out arrests while using reasonable force," police added.
The Tel Aviv municipality announced on Sunday that it will not clear a tent encampment in south Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood, despite a court order allowing the evacuation. The evacuation was originally scheduled to take place on Sunday morning.
Hundreds of people took part in the march that began at Gan Hatikva and proceeded toward Yigal Allon Street. The demonstration was attended by several more of the organizers of Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard tent city, including Dafni Leef.
Police said that protesters had blocked the intersection of Hagana and Yigal Allon streets. They later blocked Lod Street.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) strongly condemned the police's conduct at the demonstration, calling it "violent."
"The tent city in Hatikva neighborhood does not exist by way of protest but due to lack of choice.  The role of the municipality is to find solutions for them... I call to prevent the evacuation of the tents and to immediately release the detainees," said Henin.
In a press release publicizing the protest, organizers said: “The Hatikva tent encampment has served as a home for the past six months for single mothers, families, parents, children and the elderly – homeless and the direct victims of the establishment’s unsympathetic and irresponsible policies.”
The statement slammed the government for evacuating the encampment without providing a plan for alternative housing for those living there.
“Today we will all come to support the residents of the encampment and say to the prime minister: ‘In the State of Israel, a person will not be tossed from street to street – no evacuation without housing solutions.’”