Police arrested 85 people in the overnight hours between Saturday and Sunday as a protest in support of social activists in Tel Aviv turned violent.
Bank branches were broken into, eggs were thrown and roads were blocked as an estimated 3,000 people massed in central Tel Aviv Saturday night to to protest perceived police brutality against demonstrators Friday evening.
Tent-carrying protesters smashed windows in a branch of Bank Leumi near Rabin Square and in a nearby branch of Bank Hapoalim, according to media reports. Demonstrators also reportedly attempted to break into a branch of Discount Bank and threw eggs at City Hall, adjacent to Rabin Square.
Activists also marched through the streets, blocking Ibn Gvirol Street and the Ayalon highway at different points. Vandals also threw knocked over garbage cans, according to media reports.
Police commandeered a Dan bus to transport all the arrested activists.
“They crossed every red line,” Tel Aviv police chief Aharon Axel said. “We won’t allow this to devolve into violence.”
During the protest, activists waved signs that read, “Do not touch my body, it’s my right to make my voice heard,” “Dear Policeman, please do not interrupt the citizen in the line of duty,” and other slogans protesting against the high cost of living.
On Friday night, social protest leader Daphni Leef and 11 other activists were arrested in Tel Aviv as they attempted to pitch tents on Rothschild Boulevard. Police called the action unauthorized and claimed they were set upon by protesters.
The 12 were released from custody soon after.
The pitching of tents was a central symbol of last summer’s cost-of-living protests, which saw dozens of tent cities sprout up around the country, including on Rothschild Boulevard, in protest of home prices and other issues.
Though protest leaders have called for the demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands last year, to start up again, they have largely failed to gather steam this year.
Earlier on Saturday evening, several hundred demonstrators marched down Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard in protest of recent controversial remarks about Israel’s gay community by Knesset members.
Gay activists denounced the “homophobic wave of incitement from the Knesset” by MKs Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beytenu) and Uri Ariel (National Union).
An invitation distributed on Facebook called on participants to show Michaeli and her supporters “how much power we have and of what we are capable” were she or other MKs to again call “the gay community, Arabs, or any other minority ‘a cancerous body in Israeli society.’”
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) spoke at the protest and said that some MKs’ statements are ”symptomatic of a deep problem of hatred, racism, and ignorance” in Israeli society.
Horowitz pointed a finger at ministers — particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who repeatedly reject “our bills for combatting discrimination, teaching tolerance, equality in relationships and families, and recognition of gay community organizations.”
MK Michaeli spoke out against the gay community last week, saying, “Young girls get pregnant, get abortions — which hurt their chances of having children — and in the end they become lesbians.” According to the lawmaker, relationships between a man and woman “should be the only ones accepted in the State of Israel.”
A week prior, Michaeli denounced television programs that showed homosexuals in a positive light. She lashed out at Channel 10 for “showing how seemingly nice it is to be gay.”
Speaking on the official Knesset TV channel, MK Uri Ariel said last week that homosexuals who “flaunt their sexuality like a banner” have no place in the Israel Defense Forces, as their lifestyle and values are incompatible with Jewish values.