Daphni Leef, one of the leaders of last summer’s mass social protest movement, was arrested, along with seven other activists, in Tel Aviv, on Friday, after attempting to pitch tents on Rothschild Boulevard.
Leef was dragged into a police vehicle and protesters surrounded it, preventing it from driving away for nearly an hour.
Dozens of protesters remained at the site, pledging to carry on the demonstration even though the city prohibited them from pitching tents as they did last year.
A statement issued by the police said officers made the arrests in response to the protesters assaulting and abusing them.
“They [the activists] began attacking inspectors and officers, swearing, spitting and hurling objects at them,” read the statement. The statement went on to say that the police would not authorize “illegal protests that endanger the public.”
Opposition leader MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) slammed the police and the government for employing force against the social protest activists.
“Despite public security minister [Yitzhak] Aharonovich’s promise to me that there was no instruction from above to get tough with the social activists, it seems like the government and its operatives have decided to prohibit democratic protests this summer, so that no one will prevent them from passing a cruel, gap-inducing budget, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in man years,” said Yachimovich.
Dozens of activists had showed up at the spot Friday to pitch tents in an effort to revive last summer’s social protests. The activists were met by a force of municipality police officers and other officials, who prevented them from erecting any structures.
Leef, who became a symbol of the disenchanted Israeli masses a year ago, arrived at the boulevard and declared, “The time has come to demand our tomorrow.”
Along with Leef, representatives of the “cottage cheese protest” (sparked by high basic food prices) as well as dwellers of the so-called Suckers Tent in Jerusalem — who spearheaded the fight for a more equitable distribution of the burden of military service — also arrived at the central Tel Aviv street, which itself became a symbol of social struggle last summer.
Members of the municipality’s Green Patrol confiscated equipment, including the sign-up stand for the Suckers Tent movement, according to Channel 10 news.
In response to the confiscations, the activists sat in place and gave interviews to the media. Later they began a march, carrying their tents in the air.
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