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Police attempt to thwart renewed tent camp; protest leader arrested

An attempt on Friday at reestablishing last summer’s protest was met with a heavy hand by the police. Daphni Leef, who set up the tent that sparked last year’s movement and whose call brought out hundreds on Friday, was violently detained in a sign of a shift in the protester-police dynamic. 

J14 leader Daphni Leef arrested during a protest in Rothschild Boulevard., Tel Aviv, 22.6.2012 (photo (c): Rafi Michaeli / Megaphone)

Update: At least five ten protesters have been arrested, including Daphni Leef and Israeli actor Tomer Sharon, who had joined the protesters. The crowd stayed on, and Hadash MK Dov Khenin and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz arrived. Activists announced plans for a march leaving from Rothschild Boulevard at 9 p.m. on Saturday night, declaring “there is momentum here we have to take advantage of.” They also passed out fliers inviting citizens to a no-confidence vote against Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at the Tel Aviv municipality at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Scattered attempts into the evening to set up tents were met with immediate police response, with officers and municipal inspectors pouncing on and confiscating the tents.

Protesters on Rothschild Boulevard refuse to leave following the arrest of at least ten activists (photo: Ruthie Pliskin)

Tel Aviv – Several hundred people in central Tel Aviv mounted their most determined attempt yet to resuscitate the social justice protests of last summer. This time, the woman who sparked those demonstrations – Daphni Leef – attempted to once again plant a tent on Rothschild Boulevard, where it all began. But this year, the municipality, which largely sought to appease and contain the protesters last summer, was equally determined to refuse the protesters so much as a foothold. A cocktail of police and municipal inspectors first told the crowd that every tent that was placed on the ground would be confiscated and destroyed; the protesters resorted to carrying the tents on their shoulders, taking shifts to keep them aloft. Indeed, scattered attempts into Friday evening to set up tents were met with immediate police response, with officers and municipal inspectors pouncing on and confiscating the tents.

Leef herself, who in an interview to Israeli media yesterday said she hoped Tel Aviv’s pro-free market mayor, Ron Huldai, would not use force, was violently arrested by nearly a dozen riot police officers. One eyewitness on the ground told +972 that Leef was “beaten, dragged on the ground from one side of the boulevard to the other, and shoved into a police van.” As of 3 p.m. Israeli time, the crowd at the scene was blocking the van, not letting it leave for the police station, and demanding Leef’s release. This could mark a change in dynamic between protesters and the police, who were relatively tolerant toward each other in last year’s protests. Then, protesters were keen to reach out to the undertrained and underpaid police officers, who are banned from forming any kind of union under Israeli law.

Update II: J14 activists are planning a march in Tel Aviv this evening (Friday) and a larger vigil tomorrow evening, in which they would also protest the police behavior and the arrests of demonstrators. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) has demanded an investigation of “the excessive use of force” against protesters in Tel Aviv today. Leader of the opposition, MK Shelly Yechimovitz (Labor), posted a status on her Facebook page in which she blamed the government for the treatment of protesters.

J14 leader Daphni Leef arrested during a protest in Rothschild Ave., Tel Aviv, 22.6.2012 (photo (c): Rafi Michaeli / Megaphone)

The wider social justice movement went through a trying process of disintegration over the last year, with the centrist and moderate National Student Federation – provider of much of the logistical infrastructure and financial support last summer – staying aloof, and many of the iconic figures of the protests going their separate ways.

Haggai Matar adds:

Police and municipality blame activists for violence towards policemen and municipal inspectors. The activists reject the claims, and reverse them, showing bruises on their hands and legs. Also, this post reports that “their most determined attempt yet to resuscitate the social justice protests of last summer.” But here were about 500 people in the street earlier – and now about 200. In the past two months there have been at least three demonstrations with between one and 15,000 people (May 12th in Rabin Square, June 2nd, and last week in Be’er Sheva).

You can see the police confiscating the tents the protesters brought in this video. Daphni’s arrest is around 4:40 min:

Video streaming by Ustream

This video was taken on on Rothshild Boulevard before the arrests began:

In recent weeks, Israeli activists and known members of the J14 movement were invited to police questioning about their plans for this summer. Following public outcry, the police stopped this practice. Among those summoned to the Tel Aviv police headquarters was +972’s Haggai Matar, who later published a post on his experiences:

I showed up on time at the police station in the morning before the recall order was issued, having already planned to stick to my right to remain silent. I was marched into a tiny room with two policemen from the district intelligence unit, who surprised me completely with what was perhaps one of the shortest interrogations in history.

“Please sit down. Want something do drink?” asked one. “No thanks,” I replied. “What do you do in life, Haggai?” fired the second. I decided that it would do no harm to answer this question, and immediately afterwards inform them that I did not come here to talk and that I refuse to go any further. “I’m a journalist,” I said.

Read the rest here.

Israeli actor Tomer Sharon arrested during a J14 protest in Tel Aviv, June 22 2012 (photo: activestills)


Images of the arrest courtesy of Megaphone, an Independent Israeli Newspaper. This report was compiled by Dimi Reider, Noam Sheizaf and Noa Yachot. 

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    1. Richard Witty

      To the living rooms. Dinner, study, prayer, cooperation.

      Every sidewalk a community park.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      The cops look more like mafia soldiers than actual policemen (something that is probably not far from the truth). Let’s hear Michael Oren again trying to make the argument that Israel is TODITME (The Only Democracy In The Middle East).

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tomas

      Danny, which countries in the region are more democratic in their handling of protests?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Y-Man

      Tomas, I don’t think the IDF is “democratic” in their handling of anything in the Occupied Territories, do you?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Siren

      Personally don’t care about this particular infringement of democracy: Leef has gotten increasingly irrelevant, as well as extremely irritating. So if she and her fellow arrested “activists” now feel like reinventing themselves as hardcore victims of police abuse, they should knock themselves out, but they shouldn’t expect anyone to care: As you explain above, even Leef’s former cohorts don’t see any value in continuing to “protest” with her. Let’s give media platforms to those with something coherent and meaningful to say?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Danny

      “Personally don’t care about this particular infringement of democracy: Leef has gotten increasingly irrelevant, as well as extremely irritating”
      Okay, I get it. If someone is irritating to you, then limiting their freedom of speech is acceptable. How democratic of you. Have you thought about what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot and people like you became irritating to the authorities? How would you feel if you were arrested for speaking your mind?

      Reply to Comment
    7. AYLA

      Siren–nice name, since your post is, indeed alarming. if you don’t about any particular infringement of democracy, then by democracy’s definition, you don’t care about democracy.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Maor

      Since the authorities are responsible for the freedom and rights of ALL citizens – letting a main street in Tel-Aviv become incredibly noisy and making the life of locals and businesses a nightmare for a few months – would not be something that the police should tolerate. They were actually told not to put tents in Rothschild but they wanted a provocation to reignite the protest. I support demonstrations and social protest, because there are many things that need to be changed – but let’s go to Yarkon Park for the tents, and have weekend demonstration in the center of Tel-Aviv (which last year was more like a festival or fair of social movements anyway…).

      Reply to Comment
    9. Tamar

      @Maor. You make a good point that extended protests and demonstrations disturb the locals. Your otherwise reasonable solution evokes, for example, some Jerusalemites’ directing local Gay Pride Parade participants to Tel Aviv… “Out of sight” and “not in my neighborhood” sentiments feel wrong. My wish list includes a constructive conversation among representative parties to address the challenges of venue, messaging, and access, and then brainstorm solutions and choose among them.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Maor

      @Tamar: I agree with your wish list. I’m sorry that you chose to associate my wish to preserve the rights and liberties of all Tel-Avivians with the homophobic attempt to prevent the visibility of LGBTs in the public sphere – there’s not much to connect these two very different motivations.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Tomas

      Y-Man, you’re absolutely right.

      Reply to Comment
    12. radii

      israel is a mafia state and the mafia plutocrats who run it are not happy about the public protests and now make the progressives feel the smash of the boot of power the way the zionists have been crushing the hopes of the Palestians for decades – the rot is clearly showing now and the stench of decay must be rather pungent

      Reply to Comment