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Fighting breaks out as police forcibly clear protesters in Jerusalem

30 activists detained after officers declare protest illegal, begin dragging demonstrators from capital’s Paris Square; video shows cop striking, shoving activist

  • Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Police officers arrest demonstrators during a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Police officers arrest demonstrators during a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Protests outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Anat Peled/Times of Israel)
    Protests outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Anat Peled/Times of Israel)
  • Protests outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Anat Peled/Times of Israel)
    Protests outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Anat Peled/Times of Israel)

Scuffles broke out on Saturday night in Jerusalem as police attempted to forcibly remove anti-government protesters from Paris Square, near the Prime Minister’s Residence.

After declaring the event illegal due to noise violations, dozens of police officers entered the square to disperse the remaining protesters by force. Some police dragged protesters out of the area and appeared to detain them.

Police said in a statement that 30 people were detained or arrested for disturbing public order or attacking officers.

The fighting between the two sides appeared to be more violent than at similar protests in recent weeks.

In one incident, a senior officer was filmed violently shoving and striking protesters. Police said the officer, named in reports as Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta, was assaulted by one of the protesters, who tried to remove his mask, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Police later said they were investigating the incident, amid widespread condemnation by lawmakers, including opposition leader Yair Lapid.

“The protesters in the most just protests in the history of the country can’t suffer from police violence. This can’t be allowed to happen and we’ll demand a quick and decisive investigation of this evening’s events in Jerusalem,” tweeted Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party.

Jerusalem police officer Ofer Shomer called reports of police violence at Saturday night’s protest “fake news.”

“The protesters are using our names and inciting against us,” said Shomer, saying that protesters attacked cops during the demonstration.

“This protest saw very harsh behavior towards police,” Shomer said.

Police said in a statement that three officers were injured during the protest. They earlier said one officer had been hit by a stone.

Earlier, police warned demonstrators would be removed with “reasonable force,” if they do not leave the scene. Thousands of protesters refused to budge, however, leaving the two sides at a standoff.

Demonstrators chanted “revolution” and “shame” at the ranks of Yassam riot police on the other side of the barricade.

Police said in a statement after the protest that officers had told activists to halt the use of megaphones and other noisemakers, in line with a High Court ruling meant to keep neighborhood residents from being disturbed late at night, but “some protesters chose to respond by shouting insults in slurs against the police, worsening the noise, and disturbing public order by refusing to disperse on their own.

Estimates put the number of protesters at the rally’s height at around 10,000.

Hundreds of others demonstrated at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private home in the coastal town of Caesarea, and hundreds more gathered at bridges and intersections throughout the country.

Earlier in Jerusalem, demonstrators held a march through the capital, in violation of police guidelines, leading to minor scuffles between the two sides.

Protesters were rallying in Jerusalem and elsewhere against Netanyahu as part of ongoing demonstrations over the premier’s indictment on corruption charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We won’t let you suppress the protests. We’ll march with you or without you. Your role is to protect us, our role is to protect a collapsing country,” protest organizers said in a statement quoted by the Walla news site.

On Friday, some 5,000 protesters demanded Netanyahu’s resignation in Jerusalem.

Protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges.

The protests on Saturday nights tend to be the largest and have been the scene of clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

They have been joined by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.

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