Thirty-three people were arrested while police broke up a demonstration numbering 10,000 protesters Saturday night, August 22, outside of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem demanding his resignation. Scuffles broke out in central West Jerusalem as the cops attempted to forcibly remove anti-government protesters from Paris Square, near the PM’s residence. Among the protestors were Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash – Joint List) and a number of activists from Hadash and Communist Party of Israel brandishing red flags.
At 10:00 pm an officer addressing demonstrators over a loudspeaker from a police vehicle declared the gathering illegal. At 11:00 pm the police once again declared the demonstration illegal and threatened the use of force to disperse the crowd. Several minutes later, mounted police charged the demonstrators numbering thousands and were followed by ranks of Yassam riot police who attacked the crowd. Protesters retreated to Paris Square, where over 30 were detained. Even more seem to have been dragged off by force before being released.
In one incident captured on video, Jerusalem Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta is seen shoving and smacking one protester, and then pushing people to the side as he chased down another one, hitting the latter in his face and pushing him to the ground.
Earlier on Saturday, one thousand anti-government protesters held a march from the city’s Chords Bridge to the prime minister’s residence, despite police orders banning the procession. At the same time, approximately 1,000 demonstrators stationed themselves at the main intersection that exits Caesarea, site of Netanyahu’s private residence, and thousands more demonstrated at approximately 200 overpasses and intersections across the country.
On Friday afternoon, some 5,000 people had gathered to protest against Netanyahu outside his official Jerusalem residence, calling on him to resign. Although police initially only blocked off Ben Maimon Street and kept Keren Hayesod Street open for traffic, they were soon forced to block off Paris Square too as protesters continued to flood into the area. The Friday protests have become a weekly ritual, but this week saw a larger than usual turnout, which organizers attributed to the police’s having forcibly cleared a sit-in of anti-Netanyahu protesters outside his residence on Thursday prior to the start of a far-right event to which only about 300 supporters of the PM arrived. The pro-Netanyahu organizers had anticipated a higher turnout, having sought and received permission for 3,000 to rally.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other locales throughout the country, calling on the prime minister to resign because of his indictment and ongoing trial on corruption charges. They have been increasingly joined by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic.