Thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Jerusalem, Caesarea and bridges across the country Saturday night for a weekly demonstration against the government and to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the capital, demonstrators held a wildcat march from the Chords Bridge at the city’s western entrance toward the city center for the third straight week, where they were attempting to meet up with thousands of other protesters at Paris Square, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Although the march was unauthorized, the Jerusalem police have allowed it to proceed in the last two weeks.
However, several scuffles were reported Saturday night as officers attempted to stop protesters from veering off path or crossing barricades. Police said two officers were injured as protesters to bust through a police barrier at one point near IDF Square.
Demonstrators, many dressed in costume, carried Israeli flags and signs calling for Netanyahu’s ouster over a series of corruption cases in which he is accused.
Protesters also carried giant pink and black submarines, in reference to a massive alleged procurement bribery scandal. Several of Netanyahu’s associates have been indicated in the so-called submarine affair, but the prime minister himself was never a suspect in the case. Police attempted at several points to seize the submarines, leading to more small fights.
“The protesters are not listening to police forces. Some of them are fighting with cops,” a police statement said.
Clashes were also reported between police and members of the Bratslav Hasidic sect, who have protested government attempts to limit their yearly pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine during the coronavirus pandemic. A video showed police and protesters fighting on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem, several blocks away from the main protest site.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) September 5, 2020
The protests, which have also focused on the government’s failure to handle the coronavirus crisis, have become a weekly flashpoint between protesters and police since they began to gain steam in June.
In Jerusalem, police arrested performance artist Ze’ev Englemeyer, who showed up in a naked female body suit in costume as his character “Shushka,” according to Hebrew media reports.
Police said in a statement that they detained a man who showed up at the protest site “dressed as a naked woman, in a way that could constitute sexual harassment of the public.”
שושקה, זאב אנגלמייר, בנאום נגד נתניהו ברגע המעצר, דורשת לדעת מה עשתה שהוביל למעצר. לא יכול לדמיין לעצמי כמה חם בתוך החליפה הזו הערב
צילום: ענת ניר pic.twitter.com/sGiYabiCuq
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) September 5, 2020
Englemeyer, dressed as the character, has been a fixture at previous protests, and it was not immediately clear why he was now being detained. The prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, has complained in the past about feeling “sexually abused,” by lewd posters and displays during the protests.
Protests were also reported in Caesarea, where some 500 people gathered at a square outside the Netanyahus’ private home. People also gathered at some 300 overpasses around the country, according to the Ynet news site.
Protesters in Hadera reported that they found their car windows smashed after returning from an overpass.
In Jerusalem, the crowd size was estimated at several thousand, smaller than other recent protests, possibly due to a record-breaking heat wave that has settled over the country.
“We have a government that is bloated, wasteful. It hasn’t convened for a month, maybe it will convene tomorrow,” Meretz MK Yair Golan told the Times of Israel from the Jerusalem demonstration. “This is not a how a government functions during an emergency situation and this is all happening for one reason: A corrupt prime minister who corrupts everything around him — his party, the right and all of the state of Israel.”
Protests ended largely peacefully last week, in stark contrast to the previous week’s events that saw many violent incidents and claims of police brutality by participants, as officers attempted to clear out the square while thousands were still there.