Judge: 'Risking human and animal lives is not democratic'

Activist arrested over torches thrown at police during protest, sent to house arrest

Roy Gordon says he had no intention of hurting officer; lawyer says client suffers from PTSD after army service and terror attack near location of alleged incident

A video clip provided by police apparently showing a torch thrown by a protester toward a mounted officer during a demonstration in Jerusalem on April 3, 2024 (Israel Police)

Police arrested prominent activist Roy Gordon on Tuesday on suspicion of throwing two burning torches at mounted police officers during a Jerusalem protest, at which demonstrators railed against the government and demanded a deal for the release of the hostages held in Gaza.

Gordon, an activist in the Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest movement, appeared in court, where police asked that his detention be extended for six days as they investigate allegations that he attacked a police officer and obstructed an officer in the performance of his duties.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that Gordon could be held for four days.

“It is true that demonstrations are at the heart of democracy. But risking human and animal lives is not democratic and may even lead to anarchy,” said Judge Gad Arenberg.

Gordon’s lawyers appealed the decision to Jerusalem’s District Court, where Judge Ohad Gordon released their client to house arrest, ruling that he was not dangerous enough to require such a “fierce act of liberty abrogation” as incarceration.

Footage of the incident, said the judge, showed that Gordon had not mounted “an attack in the manner of throwing the torch in the direct path of the policeman.”

“This is not to detract from the severity of the acts, but the information is relevant to the assessment of the danger posed by the appellant,” ruled the judge.

In a statement, police said a protester threw a burning torch at a mounted police officer during the April 2 demonstration near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence on Azza Street.

The torch hit the officer but did not injure him or the horse. Police alleged that the same suspect threw a second torch at police, but it too did not hurt anyone.

Gordon’s lawyer, Yair Nehorai, told the Jerusalem court that his client suffers from PTSD as a result of his military service and a terror attack, and “it is possible that the commotion, the horses and the urgency put him in an anxious state.”

Nehorai said that Gordon “opposes any violent activity or injury of any kind,” and that he intends to ask the court to send his client for psychiatric evaluation.

According to Ynet, Gordon is a survivor of the deadly 2002 Cafe Moment suicide bombing, which was carried out dozens meters from the Netanyahu residence on Azza Street in the capital. Gordon was working as a bartender at the time of the attack, in which 11 people were killed.

Upon leaving the courtroom, Gordon told Ynet: “I did not intend to hurt any police officer and we do not believe in violence. The most important thing is that the hostages come home.”

Police in Jerusalem try to push back people in a protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and for the release of the hostages on April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Gordon was a prominent member of the Brothers and Sisters in Arms reservists’ movement during last year’s protests against the hardline government’s contentious judicial overhaul.

The organization took on a key role in civic organization following the devastating October 7 attack by Hamas, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage to Gaza.

In a statement to Haaretz, the movement said that “there is no place for violence in a democratic civil protest,” and that it will continue to demonstrate “with determination, without violence, against a detached government that prioritizes its political survival ahead of the good of the country.”

The April 2 protest was on the third day of a four-day demonstration in Jerusalem organized by veteran activists who rose to prominence last year amid Israel’s since-paused judicial overhaul alongside some family members in the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

After encountering barricades, a handful of protesters with megaphones ran to the front of the march and successfully directed a large contingent of the crowd to take a detour to Netanyahu’s home on Azza Street, catching law enforcement off-guard. Israel Police called that stage of the march an “unbridled riot.”

Charlie Summers contributed to this report.

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