A week after protests resulted in violent clashes with the police, thousands of demonstrators returned to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Saturday night calling for social justice and protesting recent perceived police brutality.
Approximately 8,000 protesters rallied in the plaza facing the Tel Aviv Art Museum after marching from the Habima Theater on Rothschild Boulevard. Another 500 protesters marched down King George Street in Jerusalem to Zion Square.
Police were instructed to avoid clashes with protesters and keep their distance, but “intend to be present in large numbers, yet want to give the protesters a sense of freedom,” a Tel Aviv District police officer told Channel 10. “If necessary the police will be able to intervene in a matter of minutes”. The District Commissioner also instructed the use of undercover agents disseminated among the demonstrators.
Protesters in Tel Aviv bore signs that read “Creating a better reality” and “Workers, not slaves,” and shouted slogans against the government and ministers.
At one point protesters ignited a dumpster filled with garbage, setting it ablaze. Firefighters arrived to extinguish it.
Almost a thousand protesters broke off from the main protest to demonstrate in front of government offices in Tel Aviv, then marched north on Namir Road and blocked traffic. They were joined by protesters from the Tel Aviv Art Museum rally, all of whom proceeded to Rabin Square accompanied by a large police escort.
Retired Maj. Gen. Zeev Even-Chen, who lost his daughter in the Carmel Fire, Prof. Yossi Yona, and Itzik Amsalem, a representative of south Tel Aviv residents, spoke at the protest.
Even-Chen told the crowd that the families of the Carmel Fire victims “were silent for a year and seven months” and that the time had come to talk. He said that like the social justice activists, the families of the Carmel Fire victims were neglected by the government.
Even-Chen also said he intends to petition the High Court of Justice to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for their mishandling of the Carmel Fire disaster.
Yona, a professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, said that the Israeli government had failed and “is not fulfilling its role in the public interest and not working for it. It works to please the rich.”
Some of the protesters demanded the resignations of Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for failing to address Israel’s social inequalities.
Organizers of the demonstration told Army Radio that they had sought to ensure that the protest was non-violent, and, contrary to last week’s protests, they coordinated it in advance with the police.