ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Protesters swarm Petah Tikva police station after anti-overhaul activist detained

Police question activist on suspicion of planning unspecified violent act; protester hit by car and hospitalized; man seen on video pulling gun at protester following him

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Protesters gather outside a Petah Tikva police station on June 26, 2023, where an anti-judicial overhaul activist was being questioned. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)
Protesters gather outside a Petah Tikva police station on June 26, 2023, where an anti-judicial overhaul activist was being questioned. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)

Hundreds of protesters against the government’s planned judicial overhaul gathered outside a Petah Tikva police station Monday evening, after an activist was called in for questioning and detained over alleged plans to carry out violent activities.

Though the activist, Itzik Medina, was released after a short time, flag-waving and vuvuzela-blaring protesters continued to demonstrate in the city, warning that his detention was another step toward an Israeli dictatorship.

“What happened tonight could happen to all of us,” Medina said to the crowd assembled outside the station, shortly after his release. “They came to my home and they simply picked me up.”

Medina left the station around 10 p.m. Police told Hebrew media he had been free to go for some time before departing, but had stuck around to demand an apology.

The incident marks the first time that the police have summoned an anti-judicial overhaul protester at a time in which they were not participating in a demonstration.

It was also reportedly a precedent in that the Shin Bet was involved in handing police the information that led to the arrest, according to an unsourced report Tuesday by Channel 12 news.

Protesters have accused the security establishment of ramping up efforts against demonstrators.

Anti-judicial overhaul activist Itzik Medina, outside the Petah Tikvah police station on June 26, 2023. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)

“We warned it would happen, the writing was on the wall,” read a message circulating on protest WhatsApp groups, shortly after Medina was summoned.

The message accused National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has pushed the police to come down harder upon the 25-week-long anti-overhaul protest movement, of “send[ing] police officers to make preventive arrests.”

Medina similarly blamed Ben Gvir or the Shin Bet security service for his detention, saying he believed the police were only “an emissary.”

In the highly charged atmosphere, a man drove his car into a protester, who was injured and taken to the hospital. The police said they arrested a 53-year-old resident of the city shortly thereafter.

In a separate incident, a man was videotaped pulling a handgun on an anti-judicial reform protester. Hebrew media said Tuesday that police had opened an investigation.

In the initial hours following Medina’s questioning, confusion remained among protesters and conflicting media reports as to whether Medina had been arrested by the police at his home, or reported to the police station of his own accord.

In Medina’s recounting of events, “Five armed police officers, from Petah Tikva, during a dinner with my children, arrived, knocked on the door, identified themselves, they didn’t want to bother, waited a bit until I ate something, I went outside and they took me to the station.”

Medina called the event “incitement,” and the crowd surrounding him chanted, “Shame.”

The Ynet news site reported that Medina said, “I was accused of planning to harm public figures, I am not threatening anyone,” upon his release.

The police, and Hebrew media, reported a slightly different sequence of events, saying that the police went to Medina’s home on Monday evening, and told him they wanted to question him. Police asked Medina to come in for questioning on Tuesday, but Medina arrived at the station Monday evening of his own will, the initial version continued.

The police later said that they “detained a Petah Tikva resident for questioning a short time ago, as part of examining information received regarding suspected intentions of violent activity.”

Anti-judicial overhaul protesters outside Petah Tikvah police station on June 26, 2023, where an activist was being questioned. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)

Shortly thereafter, the police sent a second clarification, saying that Medina “was not arrested and, at the end of his interrogation, he was released without conditions.”

Following a call from Brothers and Sisters in Arms for activists to protest at the police station, hundreds of protesters gathered. Medina is an activist affiliated with the group, leaders of the organization confirmed.

“We warned everyone that this was coming, and now it’s here. This is a window into our future under a dictatorship.  But we the people will never surrender,” said Yiftach Golov, a spokesperson for Brothers and Sisters in Arms.

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