Ashkelon man charged for pepper spraying anti-overhaul protesters in Tel Aviv

Ram Eyal, 24, injured 4 people in attack; police say incident politically motivated, defense lawyer says accused arrived at rally by accident, did not mean to cause harm

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Ram Eyal, 24, threatens protesters with pepper spray at an anti-judicial overhaul rally in Tel Aviv, March 16, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Ram Eyal, 24, threatens protesters with pepper spray at an anti-judicial overhaul rally in Tel Aviv, March 16, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A man was charged Tuesday with assaulting and threatening anti-judicial overhaul protesters, after allegedly attacking them at a rally with pepper spray last week.

According to the indictment, Ram Eyal, a 24-year-old Ashkelon resident, drove at a high speed to the Thursday rally at a blocked junction in Tel Aviv, left his vehicle, and sprayed the gas, injuring four protesters.

Police said the attack was politically motivated.

Dor, a demonstrator who witnessed the incident, told the Haaretz daily that the accused tried to run them over.

“We blocked him and tried to stop him from advancing. Then in response, he left the vehicle and sprayed the pepper spray. We called the police, who took 15 minutes to arrive, and after due process, they detained three people,” he said.

The accused’s lawyer said their client does not have a criminal record, and claimed he “came into the area of the rally by mistake and had no intention of harming demonstrators.”

“After we receive the investigation materials, we will present our arguments to the court,” the defense said.

Two other indictments have been filed over attacks on the anti-government protesters. On Monday, a 68-year-old Kiryat Ono resident was charged with hitting a protester in the face, causing serious injury, and two weeks ago, a Ramat Gan resident was charged over threatening protesters with a screwdriver.

For 11 weeks, protesters have rallied against the government’s plan, which as it stands, will allow the Knesset to override court decisions with the barest majority, preemptively shield laws from judicial oversight altogether, and put the selection of all judges in the hands of coalition politicians.

Opponents argue it will drastically weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters call it a much-needed reform to rein in an over-activist court.

Protests on Saturday, which drew hundreds of thousands of participants nationwide, were marked by numerous acts of violence against protesters.

Protest organizers vowed to escalate demonstrations if the coalition doesn’t halt its legislative proposals, which lawmakers advanced this week, declaring this coming Thursday a “national day of paralysis.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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