SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Over 6,000 Israelis protesters associated with J14, or the social justice movement that rocked the country last summer, assembled in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square to protest Friday’s violent arrest of Daphni Leef and other J14 leaders.
On Friday, Daphni Leef and 11 protest leaders were arrested on Rothschild Boulevard in downtown Tel Aviv. Last summer, social justice protesters moved into tents that lined Rothschild Boulevard for several kilometers. Each Saturday for seven weeks, they held massive demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people from every end of the political spectrum.
As swarms of protesters arrived to Habima Square on Saturday night, many of which came directly from a nearby anti-homophobia protest, they blocked Ibn Gavriol Street, one of Tel Aviv’s main arteries. A small number of demonstrators vandalized and broke into banks.
The demonstration was labeled by organizers as an “emergency protest” with the aim of “returning power to the people.” Thousands then moved to block the Ayalon, a multi-lane freeway that connects all of Israel’s major highways to Tel Aviv.
They chanted slogans against right-wing Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
Police, however, said the demonstration was illegal because it had not received the proper permits from the city. They moved swiftly to stop the protest from continuing: several were arrested, and several direct physical confrontations between officers and protesters broke out.
Though the organizers of Saturday’s demonstration say it was modeled off last year’s peaceful protests, the violent response of the police has shaken many.
“If people last year sat in groups in the encampments and learned what they want and why they want it – last night was their first chance to learn firsthand how to get it while on the streets,” one commentator wrote in 972 Magazine.
“After this, it is doubtful people will return to quiet rallies of the kind we saw last year.
Protesters claimed the police attacked first, while the police said that protesters were violent from the onset.
“The police came again and again, even though the march was rerouted several times,” one observer, Alina Katz, told Bikyamasr.com.
“We stopped each time there was a bank. The police tried to herd us like sheep, but it didn’t stop everyone from chanting and making noise. People were chanting, singing, and banging on drums. I saw no one push officers or use any sort of aggression towards the police. It was far from being a riot, despite the accusations of the police and many others.”
Over 80 people were reported to have been arrested during the four hour demonstration. Several were injured. J14 leaders are calling for a complete renewal of demonstrations.—www.shafaqna.com/english/