Thousands protest outside prime minister’s residence say they ‘will not let Netanyahu burn this country down’; La Familia gang blamed for attacks and riots
More than 1,000 protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered in Balfour Street outside his official residence in Jerusalem on Thursday evening. More assembled outside the home of Public Security Minister Amir Ohama in Tel Aviv, as police continued to track down those behind Tuesday night’s violent attacks on protesters.
In Jerusalem, where daily protests have centered, protesters vowed that they would not be deterred by what they called Netanyahu’s incitement.
Police have been deployed in large numbers to the planned sites of the protests, aiming to prevent further violence.
But the La Familia gang, ultra-right fans of football club Beitar Jerusalem, whose members were blamed for attacks on protesters, rioted at a location blocks away from the demonstration, chanting death to leftists and assaulting a television crew. Police forces arrested about ten activists who violated public order and threw stones.
“We came to show what the real way of ‘La Familia’ is, not as they say in the media,” one of the members of the organization told the N12, wearing a mask at the beginning of the demonstration. “No one will shit on our symbols. Whoever sings PLO flags in a demonstration unrelated to the self-employed or the cost of living for me is a traitor and an enemy.”
The group said it has “no interest in politics, only an interest in the extremist anarchists who have crossed the line.”
Protesters near Balfour have set up a kind of “self-defense groups” against attackers, in parallel with police efforts to block possible provocations and infiltration of attackers who will try to assimilate among the protesters – as apparently happened in Tel Aviv were violently attacked two days ago.
The police said: “We are aware of the call of La Familia activists, who intend to attend the demonstration. We are prepared for this in all aspects of preparation, including large forces, covert forces and technological means. We will not deprive them of freedom of protest, but we will identify Where they will be. ”
A member of the “Crime Minister” protest, Yishai Hadas, said that its members would “turn out this evening for another protest in a massive series of protests at Balfour Street.”
“We will not let Netanyahu burn this country down,” he said. “The police, Jerusalem police in particular, are very well acquainted with La Familia and know their methods of stopping our people. We are aware of the level of incitement and we are not afraid. We won’t be stopped. Not by incitement and not by Netanyahu.”
Thursday was already expected to be a particularly tense day for the police as they dealt with the safety of worshipers at the Western Wall on the occasion of Tisha B’Av, the Jewish mourning for the two biblical Temples, and demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s official residence.
After demonstrations in Tel Aviv escalated into violent clashes, the police were preparing Thursday for higher numbers at the demonstration outside Netanyahu’s home.
The head of Jerusalem District Operations Branch, Deputy Superintendent Shlomi Bachar, told Ynet on Wednesday night that this was a challenging time for the police.
He said that despite harsh criticism of the police in recent weeks, the Jerusalem District was learning from incidents at previous demonstrations
On Tuesday night, anti-Netanyahu protesters in Tel Aviv were attacked, apparently by a gang of supporters of the prime minister.
At least five people were wounded in the attacks and five people have been arrested so far as police examine video footage taken of the attacks.
“In light of what happened in Tel Aviv, we will also be preparing to secure the demonstrators in a very wide circle to prevent friction between the protests themselves and to prevent acts of violence between civilians,” Bachar said.
The Jerusalem District was planning to deploy hundreds of police officers for Thursday across all areas of the city.
“There will be overt and covert activity,” Bachar said. “The goal is to prevent the violence that we have already seen.”
The increased deployment of the police in intended to allow all protesters at the scene. Furthermore, the compound itself has been expanded to allow more protesters to enter.
By Itay Blumenthal, Haim Golditch, Ynet News, JBN staff