At 11 a.m. demonstrators attempted to block the intersection opposite the Supreme Court in Jerusalem and some scuffles with the police ensued. A few demonstrators were detained,” the KAN Bet radio station reported Tuesday night on its roundup of the countrywide anti-judicial overhaul protests.
Well, I was one of those civilians scuffled by the police. The demo had started mundanely enough, about an hour earlier. Several thousand gathered opposite the Supreme Court and, shepherded by the police, proceeded down Yoel Zussman Street toward the Knesset.
Finding closer access to the Knesset blocked by a police barricade, the demo backtracked toward the Supreme Court, waving flags, blowing whistles, banging drums, and chanting “Democracy!”
None of this particularly perturbed innocent passersby and drivers as the police managed to divert traffic and keep things under control. A double-decker tourist bus, caught up momentarily in the throng, got a bonus view of the antics of the locals, and the tourists on board waved merrily at the protesters.
The situation became a little less merry when the procession arrived back opposite the Supreme Court, crossed the intersection, and began holding up traffic on busy Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard. A police assistant commissioner dashed ahead to marshal his troops. He brought in the heavies – the Mounties. Confronting the demonstrators nose-to-nose, these large dark horses are pretty scary and some of the crowd began vacating the boulevard.
Pushing pack retreating protesters
Then a line of riot police started pushing back the rest of the reluctantly retreating protesters. I, apparently, was not backtracking fast enough, so a muscular young policeman gave me an overzealous shove – and there I was – flat on my back.
I was not hurt, though somewhat embarrassed to find myself lying on the sidewalk. At this juncture, I should note that I am an 83-year-old, and did not present a credible threat to public safety.
The incident passed without anybody paying much attention. The question arises though – what if I had shoved the policeman and he had fallen on his back? The answer is obvious. I would have been immediately arrested and charged, and probably eventually convicted, of assaulting a police officer. Whereas I, not having broken any law, exercising the right (up to the present time) of demonstrating, have no recourse against the over-zealous policeman.
Indeed, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir would probably issue a commendation to the policeman, if he ever got to hear about the incident. Brave Ben-Gvir has complained that the failure of the justice system to indict more protesters is “disgraceful.”
In view of the uptick in violence against protesters, and members of the media, during Tuesday’s countrywide disturbances, it can be assumed that Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has taken his boss’s (Ben-Gvir) order for stronger action against protesters to heart.
The writer is a former journalist and senior editor at The Jerusalem Post.