ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Hundreds rally at police station near Tel Aviv to secure release of arrested protester

Dan Orenstein, CEO of Champion Motors, detained following alleged scuffle at earlier demonstration outside Herzliya Pituach home of Channel 14 backer Yitzchak Mirilashvili

Dan Orenstein, CEO of Champion Motors, was arrested at a protest against Channel 14 owner Yitzhak Mirilashvili in Herzliya Pituach on April 14, 202 and was released after hundreds rallied outside the Glilot police station. (Screenshot/Telegram, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Dan Orenstein, CEO of Champion Motors, was arrested at a protest against Channel 14 owner Yitzhak Mirilashvili in Herzliya Pituach on April 14, 202 and was released after hundreds rallied outside the Glilot police station. (Screenshot/Telegram, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hundreds of anti-government protesters besieged a police station near Tel Aviv on Friday night demanding the release of a fellow demonstrator detained earlier in the day.

Police said some 30 demonstrators from the “Brothers in Arms” protest group initially showed up inside the Glilot police station seeking the release of Dan Orenstein, who had been arrested Friday afternoon at a demonstration outside the Herzliya Pituach home of businessman Yitzchak Mirilashvili. Mirilashvili is the controlling shareholder of Channel 14, a rising right-wing media outlet widely seen as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the son of Georgian-born Israeli billionaire Mikhael Mirilashvili who controls a vast business empire that has included hotels and real estate.

According to police, Orenstein — CEO of major car importer Champion Motors — had scuffled with an unidentified person, a man in his 20s, who responded angrily to the protest and damaged a sign Orenstein was carrying. This led to a tussle and both were arrested, police said.

The man in his 20s was released shortly after being taken into custody while Orenstein was detained for hours as supporters began gathering outside the Glilot station.

The police removed the initial group, and arrested one demonstrator, but the station was soon surrounded by hundreds more protesters waving flags, blowing horns and vuvuzelas and chanting “shame,” a rallying cry among demonstrators protesting the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

Video footage from the scene shows four police officers grabbing a demonstrator who was holding onto a staircase railing outside the station and quickly hauling him inside.

Police released Orenstein at around 10:30 at night, followed by the release of the demonstrator outside the station, to wild cheers and applause. Protesters then quickly dispersed.

According to reports in the Hebrew media, former IDF chief Dan Halutz and Tal Russo, a general who served as chief of the military’s Southern Command (and a former Labor Party MK), were among the protesters who negotiated with police for Orenstein’s release.

The protest at Mirilashvili’s home was part of a series of anti-government demonstrations Friday outside the homes of leading members of the ruling Likud party, including the private residences of MK Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs committee, in Herzliya, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana in Tel Aviv, Science and Innovation Minister Ofir Akunis, also in Tel Aviv, and MK Danny Danon in Ra’anana.

Protesters have been gathering for over three months against the hardline coalition’s highly contentious plans to overhaul Israel’s judicial system, bring most judicial appointments under government control and curb the oversight powers of the High Court of Justice.

While large-scale rallies against the legislation have taken a breather over the Passover holiday, activity is set to ramp up once again now that Passover has ended, protest leaders have said, with mass demonstrations around the country scheduled for a 15th successive Saturday night.

Weekly mass protests around the country have continued even after Netanyahu paused the legislation late last month to allow dialogue on reaching a compromise between the sides. Coalition members have nevertheless vowed to press forward with the legislative push after the Knesset’s Passover recess

Organizers have continued to express heavy skepticism toward the compromise talks between Yesh Atid and National Unity on one side and the ruling coalition on the other, under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog. They allege the talks are a ruse to quell the protest movement and advance the legislation quietly.

Ziv Keinan, one of the founding members of the Kumi Israel (Arise Israel) organization, claimed Thursday that lawmakers had used the freeze to plot how to advance the legislation rather than negotiate it being watered down, meaning protesters would be needed “on the ground” to “deliver the message that we won’t allow our democracy to be turned into a dictatorship.” He threatened new forms of civil disobedience to counter the government’s plans.

“People will fight in the streets for democracy at any price,” said Keinan, whose group has been a key organizer in the anti-government demonstrations. “We have a massive arsenal of tools [for civil disobedience] with which we intend to intensify the protest if necessary.”

Keinan would not detail the new types of civil disobedience, but said that “What has been seen until now is the tip of the iceberg.”

One of the major forms of non-violent civil disobedience used so far has been to block major highways and junctions around the country, causing severe traffic jams and leading to confrontations with the police who have used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse protestors.

In Tel Aviv, protesters are set to begin gathering at 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening at Habima Square in preparation for a weekly march to Kaplan Street, near the Ayalon Highway.

The list of speakers at the Tel Aviv protest includes Halutz and a social activist who was previously a member of the extremist far-right group La Familia. Shikma Bressler, a prominent protest organizer, will host the speakers who will begin their addresses after 8:00 p.m. to allow those observing Shabbat to participate.

A large anti-overhaul demonstration is planned for Jerusalem Saturday evening, as is a counter-protest by right-wing groups.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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