Clashes as police clear protest encampment near Netanyahu residence for 5th time

Organizers say 2 protesters lightly injured; police say one arrested for disorderly conduct, possession of knife; municipality charges encampment was outside designated area

Protesters try to stop municipal officials from confiscating equipment from anti-Netanyahu encampment in Independence Park, Jerusalem, August 9, 2020. (screen grab/Kan)
Protesters try to stop municipal officials from confiscating equipment from anti-Netanyahu encampment in Independence Park, Jerusalem, August 9, 2020. (screen grab/Kan)

Police and municipal inspectors clashed on Sunday with demonstrators as they cleared a protest site near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence for a fifth time.

The encampment was part of the ongoing “black flag” anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu, who is standing trial in a series of graft cases and is additionally facing criticism for his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters said officers forcibly took equipment and confronted some 50 people who had spent the night at the encampment, including families with children, the Haaretz daily reported.

Organizers said two protesters were lightly injured during the confrontations.

Police said one person was arrested for disorderly conduct and possession of a knife.

“This morning, police secured the Jerusalem municipality employees while evacuating a tent encampment in the area of ​​Independence Park in Jerusalem,” police said in a statement. “During the evacuation, several people began to try to block Agron Street, but officers cleared them from the street.”

The municipality said in a statement that the protesters were cleared from the park because they were behaving “in a way that harmed public order in the center of Jerusalem and within Independence Park.”

Jerusalem municipality police confiscating mattresses from demonstrators in Independence Park, Jerusalem, July 29, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

According to Haaretz, the municipality said last week that it would dedicate an area of the park for the protesters to set up their tents, but city officials say that demonstrators continued to camp outside the designated area.

The High Court has approved the ongoing protests near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, angering some local residents who have petitioned the court to ban them, saying they have been disrupting their daily lives.

Last month, opposition MKs said that clearing an encampment on the street outside the Prime Minister’s Residence was an attempt by the premier to stifle criticism.

Netanyahu ally and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana was recorded last month pressuring police brass to step up enforcement against demonstrators, saying they are “taking over the sidewalks with sleeping bags and mattresses.”

The encampments are part of the black flag movement which led demonstrations on Saturday evening against Netanyahu as part of ongoing protests.

Thousands protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on August 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The main demonstration took place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where anti-Netanyahu rallies have been held regularly in recent months.

Hebrew media reports put turnout at over 15,000 people, while organizers estimated the crowd at some 32,000 people, based on the number of armbands given out to demonstrators as they entered the square.

The demonstration appeared to be the largest yet in a growing movement that has seen thousands take to streets to rally against Netanyahu over the past month. Smaller protests were also held in Caesarea outside Netanyahu’s private residence, and at highway overpasses nationwide.

The number of families with children was especially prominent at the Jerusalem demonstration, in addition to groups of young people.

Representatives of independent businesspeople joined the protest, as no separate demonstration was held by those battered economically by the pandemic.

Police in Jerusalem allowed protesters to remain until after midnight, but began demanding demonstrators disperse starting at around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, removing those who refused to leave by force.

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