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Protesters flood streets across US, demonstrating against George Floyd’s killing

Thousands gather at Capitol building, on National Mall; mourners line up outside North Carolina church where memorial service, public viewing for police brutality victim held

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Demonstrators protest on June 6, 2020, in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP/Alex Brandon)
Demonstrators protest on June 6, 2020, in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP/Alex Brandon)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they unfolded.

Thousands gather at Rabin Square to protest Netanyahu’s annexation plan

Thousands of Israelis have gathered at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex large parts of the West Bank beginning on July 1.

The demonstration is organized by the left-wing Meretz party and the Hadash communist faction of the majority-Arab Joint List along with several other left-wing rights groups.

Organizers have called on participants to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines as police warn that they will cap the event at 2,000 people.

Protesters are seen waving Israeli and Palestinian flags with several dozen holding up pictures of Iyad Halak, a Palestinian man with autism who was shot dead last week in Jerusalem’s Old City by police who said they thought he was carrying a gun. (He was unarmed and holding his cellphone.)

Dozens of police officers are securing the rally.

Police on Friday backtracked on a decision to ban the protest, saying it could go ahead Saturday evening if social distancing regulations would be maintained.

Organizers marked up the city’s iconic Rabin Square so that demonstrators could stand separated.

The event, titled, “No to the occupation, no to annexation, yes to democracy,” kicked off with a march from the Tel Aviv Art Museum to Rabin Square.

Adressing protest from quarantine, Odeh says Jews, Arabs who want peace must fight against annexation

Addressing the Tel Aviv anti-annexation rally from quarantine, MK Ayman Odeh says all Jews and Arabs who support peace and justice must fight against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to enact Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.

“Annexation is apartheid,” Odeh told the cheering protesters.

The Joint List Party chairman compared the protest against annexation to the protest of Israeli mothers in the late 1990s, calling on the government to withdraw for southern Lebanon.

Health Ministry reports three new deaths and 46 new coronavirus cases since morning

The Health Ministry reports three more fatalities from the coronavirus, bringing the national death toll to 295.

According to the ministry’s figures, there have been 17,752 recorded coronavirus infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic, up 46 from this morning.

Of the 2,407 active cases, 39 people are in serious condition, including 21 on ventilators.

Another 39 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms.

Meretz head: We cannot replace temporary occupation with permanent apartheid

Meretz party chairman MK Nitzan Horowitz tells the thousands protesting in Rabin Sqare, “we cannot replace an occupation of dozens of years with an apartheid that will last forever.”

“Yes, to two states for two peoples, no to violence and bloodshed,” shouts a hoarse Horowitz. “No to annexation, yes to peace.”

He calls annexation “a crime against peace, a crime against humanity, a crime that will result in bloodshed.”

Horowitz calls out Blue and White chairman and defense minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Labor chairman MK Amir Peretz for “raising their hands and crawling to the other side.”

“You have no mandate to approve this apartheid. You have no mandate to bury peace,” he shouts.

The Meretz head says Netanyahu is being pushed to carry out the controversial move by the “messianic” Trump administration.

Calling annexation a “war crime,” Horowitz says it will cost Israel millions as the economy is already reeling due to the coronavirus.

“Make some noise so no one thinks that we’re a bunch of nerds,” the emcee shouts at the crowd after Horowitz’s speech.

Renegade Labor MK at protest: I’m here on behalf of those in my party who oppose annexation

Labor MK Merav Michaeli, who has said she will not join the Netanyahu government along with the rest of her party, tells protesters that she has come to Rabin Square as a representative of those in her center-left faction who oppose annexation.

Michaeli says the move will damage relations with Jordan as well as its closest trade partners in Europe.

She bashes Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz for agreeing to join a government that would carry out such a move.

Meretz MK: Trump is not a friend of Israel, Netanyahu is not good for Israel

Addressing the anti-annexation rally in Tel Aviv, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg says, “this [Trump] deal has nothing to do with what is good for us, Israelis and Palestinians who live here in the Middle East.

“It’s a cursed deal between one man who’s trying to win an election another who’s trying to escape a corruption trial,” she says.

“Trump is not a friend of Israel. Bibi is not good for Israel.”

“This is a deal that will officially make Israel an apartheid state… [Enacting] sovereignty [in the West Bank] without [granting] citizenship [to Palestinians] is apartheid,” she asserts.

Opposition head: Annexation a ‘spin’ by Netanyahu to distract public from trial

Knesset Opposition Chairman Yair Lapid tells Channel 12 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex large parts of the West Bank next month is a “spin” to distract the public’s attention from his ongoing corruption trial and the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

“I think it’s spin by Netanyahu, who is trying to deflect attention from economic meltdown, including the collapse of independent businesses, and his criminal trial,” he says.

“I support the Trump plan. I oppose unilateral annexation,” Lapid adds.

Report: Netanyahu, Gantz to form mini-security cabinet to discuss extra-sensitive issues

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have agreed to form a miniature security cabinet that will be tasked with addressing sensitive security issues such as West Bank annexation and the Iran nuclear program, Channel 13 reports, citing four unnamed ministers and senior officials.

The decision was made earlier this week after the two party chairmen recognized that the current security-cabinet with 16 ministers and four observers was far too big to effectively debate issues of critical importance.

The miniature security-cabinet, jokingly referred to as a “mibtachon,” or kitchenette in Hebrew, will likely consist of eight senior ministers, with the Likud-Shas-UTJ-Gesher bloc receiveing representation equal to the Blue and White-Derech-Eretz-Labor bloc. However, Channel 13 says that an even smaller body of Netanyahu, Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will be formed to discuss the annexation file.

Whatever decisions made by the reduced security-cabinets will still need approval of the full 16-member body, but the creation of the new forums will likely lead to the full security cabinet meeting less frequently and members being expected to fall in line with the decisions of senior lawmakers.

Addressing Tel Aviv rally, Bernie Sanders says annexation plans must be stopped

Addressing the Tel Aviv rally via video message, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says, “I’m extremely heartened to see so many of you, Arabs and Jews alike standing up for peace, justice and democracy.”

“The plans to annex any parts of the West Bank must be stopped. The occupation must be ended and we must work together for a future of equality and dignity for all people in Israel and Palestine,” he says.

“The only future is a shared future. We will build it together,” he concludes, adding “I am with you in solidarity.”

Education Ministry orders limiting of graduation ceremonies due to virus

The Education Ministry has notified school administrators that upcoming graduation ceremonies will have to take place in a more limited fashion due to the coronavirus.

Each homeroom or sub-section will have its own ceremony, rather than entire grades being together for the event.

The ministry says it is still weighing whether or not parents will be invited to the ceremonies.

Clashes, tear gas in Beirut as protests turn to riots

Lebanese riot police were firing tear gas at protesters in central Beirut, after a planned anti-government demonstration quickly degenerated into rioting and stone-throwing confrontations between opposing camps.

A few thousand demonstrators had gathered in Martyrs’ Square hoping to reboot nationwide protests that began late last year amid an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. But tensions and divisions over the goals of the demonstration quickly became apparent as groups of young men faced off, with the army standing between them.

Scattered groups of protesters arrived in the capital’s downtown area, many of them without masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, in response to calls for a centralized protest to press for demands.

Lebanese rose up against their political leaders in nationwide mass protests on October 17, amid a spiraling economic crisis, blaming them for decades of corruption and mismanagement. The protests, which further deepened the slump, eventually lost some momentum and later were put on hold after the outbreak of the pandemic.

It was biggest protest since the government gradually began easing a lockdown aimed at curbing the virus last month. Saturday’s protest was called for by grassroots organizations and civil society groups as well as several political parties, including some groups who have introduced for the first time demands for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah to disarm.

— AP

Protests support Floyd, Black Lives Matter on 3 continents

Tens of thousands of people were gathering in cities far from the United States to express their anger over the death of George Floyd, a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality is resonating with wider calls over addressing racism in Asia, Australia and Europe.

In Berlin, where police say 15,000 people rallied peacefully on the German capital’s Alexander Square, protesters chanted Floyd’s name and held up placards with slogans such as “Stop police brutality” and “I can’t breath.”

Several thousand demonstrators in Paris defied a protest ban — issued due to the coronavirus pandemic — and assembled within sight of the U.S. Embassy, kept back by imposing barriers and riot police.

In central London, tens of thousands staged a rally outside Parliament Square, invoking Floyd’s memory as well as people who died during police encounters or indifference in Britain. Some protesters ignored thickening rain clouds and later headed toward the UK Home Office, which oversees law enforcement and immigration, and to the US Embassy.

An estimated 15,000 people also gathered in the heart of Manchester, England, and a further 2,000 people joined in a demonstration in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.

In Brisbane, the Queensland state capital, organizers said about 30,000 people gathered, forcing police to shut down some major downtown streets. The protesters demanded to have Australia’s Indigenous flag raised at the police station.

In South Korea’s capital, Seoul, protesters gathered for a second straight day to denounce Floyd’s death.

Police say 20,000 people rallied against racism in Munich, while thousands more took part in protests in Frankfurt and Cologne.

— AP

Anti-annexation protesters chant Iyad Halak’s name at police officers

Hundreds of anti-annexation protesters are blocking Ibn Gabirol street next to Rabin Square and chanting at officers the name of Iyad Halak — the autistic Palestinian who was gunned down by police last week in Jerusalem

Mass Black Lives Matter protests taking place across US cities

Mass Black Lives Matter protests in memory of George Floyd are taking place across the US, in cities such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Hundreds of Buffalo cops applaud colleagues who shoved 75-year-old protester

Hundreds of Buffalo police officers are seen applauding two of their colleagues after they exited the courthouse where they are being charged with assault for having shoved a 75-year-old protester to the ground earlier this week.

Peace Now head calls on protesters to kneel for Iyad Halak, George Floyd

Peace Now CEO Shaqued Morag calls on protesters at the anti-annexation rally to kneel in solidarity with activists in the US demonstrating against the murder of George Floyd, adding that the gesture is also in memory of Iyad Halak, the Palestinian man with autism who was shot dead by police in Jerusalem last week.

“Let us all take a knee together. In memory of George Floyd. In memory of Iyad Halak. In memory of all the victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she says.

Anti-annexation protesters observe moment of silence for Palestinian shot dead by cops

Anti-annexation protesters at Rabin Square observe a moment of silence in memory of Iyad Halak, a Palestinian man with autism who was shot dead last week in Jerusalem’s Old City by police who said they thought he was carrying a gun. (He was unarmed and holding his cellphone.)

Transportation Ministry weighs requiring train passengers to purchase ticket in advance

The Transportation Ministry is weighing requiring all train passengers to purchase their tickets online and in advance in order to monitor and cap how many people will be allowed on each ride, Hebrew media reports.

Trains are expected to resume operations this coming Monday.

Protesters pour into DC for city’s largest demonstration yet

Protesters are streaming into the US capital for what was expected to be the city’s largest demonstration yet against police brutality, while George Floyd was mourned in his North Carolina hometown, where hundreds of mourners lined up to squeeze into a church to pay their respects.

Military vehicles and officers in fatigues are closing off much of downtown Washington to traffic ahead of the planned march, which authorities estimated would attract up to 200,000 people outraged by Floyd’s death 12 days ago at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

In Raeford, the small town near Fayetteville where Floyd was born 46 years ago, a long line of people formed outside a church, waiting to enter in small groups for a chance to look at his coffin. A private memorial service was scheduled for later in the day.

The line of people waiting to view the coffin included families with young children and teenagers. One young woman wore a green and gold graduation cap and gown as she walked beside her parents. Most people wore surgical masks or cloth face coverings.

When a hearse bearing Floyd’s coffin arrived, chants of “Black Power,” “George Floyd” and “No justice, no peace,” echoed from beneath the covered entrance.

“It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black,” says a man in the crowd, Erik Carlos of Fayetteville. “It was a heavy hit, especially knowing that George Floyd was born near my hometown. It made me feel very vulnerable at first.”

Washington has seen daily protests for the past week — largely peaceful, with people marching back and forth from the White House to the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said local officials expected 100,000 to 200,000 protesters for Saturday’s event. The White House has been fortified with new fencing and extra security precautions.

US President Donald Trump had no public events on his daily schedule. But about 100 protesters gathered at his golf resort in Doral, Florida, just outside Miami. The protest was organized by Latinos for Black Lives Matter.

— AP

Police warn protesters blocking road that they’ll have to physically remove them if they don’t scram

Police issue a statement saying they’ve warned anti-annexation protesters blocking Ibn Gabirol street near Rabin Square that they’ll have no choice but to physically remove or possibly detain them if they don’t vacate the premises

Epidemiological probe forces 4 Joint List MKs into quarantine after colleague contracts virus

An epidemiological probe carried out after Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh contracted the coronavirus found that he had been in contact with four other colleagues from the majority-Arab party, and as a result they will all have to enter quarantine.

The lawmakers are Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, and fellow MKs Heba Yazbak, Aida Touma-Sliman and Mtanes Shihadeh.

Thousands gather near White House to protest

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators are pouring into the streets of Washington on a hot, humid Saturday afternoon to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

The protesters are gathering at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in many residential neighborhoods. The crowd has erupted in applause as Mayor Muriel Bowser walked along the portion of 16th Street that she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza on Friday.

Many of the loosely organized groups were moving toward the White House, where US President Donald Trump was spending the day with no public events. The president remained behind-closed-doors, the faint sound of protesters audible in the distance.

One group of thousands of protesters chanted obscenities at Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice as they passed the FBI and Justice Department buildings. The protesters held signs that read, “When a cop kills someone, we all die” and ”White silence is violence.” With hands raised in the air, many also chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

— AP

Former chief of Palestinian Islamic Jihad dies — report

Ramadan Shalah, the former secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, has reportedly died.

Shalah had been in a coma for the past two years after suffering a stroke.

Ramadan Shalah, Head of Islamic Jihad, at a press conference in Damascus on Saturday December 16, 2006 (AP Photo: Bassem Tellawi).

Police begin clearing anti-annexation protesters illegally blocking road

Police have begun clearing the anti-annexation protesters that are blocking Ibn Gabirol street near Rabin Square in Tel Aviv where the demonstration concluded nearly two hours ago.


Police detain five anti-annexation protesters for blocking road

Police say they have detained five anti-annexation protesters for blocking Ibn Gabirol street near Rabin Square where the official demonstration concluded roughly two hours ago.

Police detain Haaretz photographer at anti-annexation protest

Police have detained a Haaretz photographer who was covering the anti-annexation protest.

His colleague tweets that he identified himself as a journalist but that officers still violently apprehended him.

Israeli jailed in Thailand to land in Israel tomorrow to serve rest of sentence

Nati Hadad, an Israeli man who was sentenced in 2018 to four years in prison in Thailand for operating an illegal medical clinic, as well as firearms offenses, will land tomorrow morning at Ben Gurion Airport to serve the remainder of his sentence in Israel.

Hadad has been reported to be in ill health and to have attempted suicide, and President Reuven Rivlin last year sent the Thai king a letter asking him to hand Hadad a royal pardon due to his “critical medical and mental state.”

Rivlin said in March that the king had decided, following lengthy diplomatic efforts, to allow Hadad to return to Israel.

Nati Hadad. (Screenshot: YouTube)
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