Protests against far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued nationwide on Saturday evening, August 8, with tens of thousands of people gathering outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. In addition, approximately 1,000 demonstrators stationed themselves at a main intersection exiting Caesarea, site of Netanyahu’s private residence, to assure that he would have to pass them as he was driven back to Jerusalem on Saturday night. Among the protestors in Jerusalem was Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) and numerous activists from Hadash, the Communist Party of Israel, and members of the Young Communist League.
The demonstrations this weekend were the largest to date in a growing movement of anti-Netanyau rallies that have witnessed thousands of protestors taking to the streets over the past month and a half. A Friday protest outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence drew 3,000 demonstrators. The weekly Friday protests, which are dubbed “Kabbalat Shabbat” (“Greeting the Sabbath”) tend to attract younger families than the larger Saturday night protests which have frequently seen clashes between protesters and police.
On Saturday afternoon, several thousand protesters made their way to scores of overpasses and major intersections across the country in a display of the anti-Netanyahu sentiment that has sparked protests in recent weeks. Protesters were heard shouting “Bibi Go Home!” and “We are sick of corruption!”
“This is the seventh week in a row that masses of citizens across Israel have joined the protests against Netanyahu, calling on him to pack his bags and resign after his utter failure in handling the health crisis,” a statement by the Black Flag movement read.
The main protest took place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where anti-Netanyahu rallies have been held regularly in recent months. Police reports estimated the turnout at over 15,000 people, while organizers claimed the crowd included as many as 32,000 people, based on the number of armbands distributed to demonstrators as they entered Paris Square adjacent to the PM’s official residence. Police in Jerusalem allowed protesters to remain until after midnight, but began demanding that demonstrators disperse starting at around 1 am Sunday morning, removing by force those who refused to leave amidst chants of “shame.” The square was cleared out by 1:30 am, with three people being detained for “disturbing public order and attacking officers,” according to police. A photographers from Haaretz was also detained despite showing his press credentials. A police spokesperson accused the photographer of “attacking an officer.”
As the evening progressed, Black Flag protesters in Eilat reported being sprayed by tear gas from a passing vehicle. Recent weeks have seen incidents of violence by fascists and other right-wing supporters of Netanyahu. Protesters have also accused police of using excessive force during the demonstrations.
Earlier on Saturday, the “Crime Minister” movement, whose activists are among those leading the anti-Netanyahu protests, filed a complaint with police against the racist felon Yona Avrushmi. In 1983, Avrushmi tossed a hand grenade into a rally organized by Peace Now against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, killing the activist Emil Grunzweig. Avrushmi, who was released from prison in January 2011, gave an interview on Friday in which he referred to protesters as “germs that must be eliminated.” Black Flag protesters said before Saturday’s protests that “If Avrushmi is not arrested, and we end up experiencing violence tonight, the blood of protesters will be on the hands of the police.”
Netanyahu and his Likud party lashed out at Channel 12 for covering the massive anti-government protests, as they have done on previous Saturdays since the protests against him have erupted. Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter account, “Reporters and analysts are mobilizing for ‘Demonstration Channel 12’ for the benefit of left-wing rioters against the government.” In a statement released by the Likud, which was shared by Netanyahu on social media, the premier’s party wrote “Channel 12 is doing all it can do boost the extremist left-wing protests of [opposition head MK Yair] Lapid and [Joint List leader MK] Ayman Odeh, who are inciting murder against the prime minister and his family.”
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