Fresh protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were expected Thursday night in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and on highway bridges throughout the country, hours after police asked the Supreme Court not to block the demonstrations.
Crime Minister, one of the three main groups organizing protests against Netanyahu, said a Jerusalem protest would begin at 7:30 p.m. by the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street.
The group said Tel Aviv protests would take place by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s home at 6:30 p.m. and demonstrators demanding Netanyahu’s resignation would also wave flags from bridges across the country starting at 6:00 p.m.
The protest would be the first major demonstration since Saturday night, when some 10,000 people gathered outside Balfour Street, the largest-yet showing since the protests gained steam last month.
Protesters have for weeks been holding regular rallies on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges. They have been joined by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.
Police told the High Court of Justice on Thursday that it believed it should reject a petition against the demonstrations by dozens of residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods Rehavia and Talbieh, who are seething over the weekly protests near their homes.
Siding with the demonstrators, police told the court that any attempts to curtail the rallies, held several times weekly, would impinge on the freedom to protest.
Police said they would therefore not place a cap on the number of participants, or relocate the protests elsewhere. The force also rebuffed a call to restrict the rallies due to health fears amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no place for the request of the petitioners to move the demonstrations elsewhere,” the police response said.
Sixty residents of the two Jerusalem neighborhoods had signed on to the petition, complaining that the noise and music blasted at the rallies late into the night was disrupting their lives.
An online counter-petition by other residents drew hundreds of signatures.
An attorney representing the residents lamented the police stance, saying law enforcement was allowing the demonstrators to make their lives “hell.”
Netanyahu and his supporters have strongly condemned the protesters, branding them “anarchists.”
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion on Thursday joined the chorus of criticism of the protest, citing the pandemic and the danger of transmission.
“I respect the right to protest, but we are in a difficult time,” he said.
Netanyahu is on trial for a series of cases in which he allegedly received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and traded regulatory favors with media moguls for more favorable coverage of himself and his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing, accusing the media and law enforcement of a witch hunt to oust him from office.