The buoyant mood following the largest protest in Israel's history is morphing into rage after protesters were evicted from their tents and several encampments were demolished by police and government officials.
More than 200 protesters today streamed toward city hall to protest the city council's decision to evict protesters from several areas in Tel Aviv, and as the anger grew, protesters attempted to storm city hall, throwing eggs, furniture and other objects at the building while trying to break through a police barricade, chanting, "The people demand the eviction of Huldai (Tel Aviv's mayor)!"
Overnight, police and government workers attempted to evict protesters from several locations and demolish the protest encampments. Many of these locations were in some of Tel Aviv's poorest neighborhoods. This contrary to government claims that officials were merely "cleaning up" abandoned tents and garbage.
Protesters try to salvage their belongings as police evict protesters from Holon and demolish the encampment.
When police today tried to demolish parts of the protest encampment in central Tel Aviv – after assuring protesters that they had several days to remove their belongings – hundreds of protesters, enraged, marched upon city hall, and over 40 so far have been arrested.
According to Ynet, protesters were explicit about their rage:
"Up until now we were gentle, but we won't be quiet anymore. Our response to the privatization – a revolt," they shouted and proceeded to block off nearby roads and even boarded a bus passing by.
It is being reported that social justice protest leader, Daphni Leef – the woman who began everything eight weeks ago when she camped in Tel Aviv's streets as an act of civil disobedience – is giving a speech to protesters. (For more on Leef, see my diary from Saturday: "My Mind Was Blown by What I Witnessed Last Night.")
Earlier, she told reporters, while watching the violence between protesters and police:
"It's hard for me personally to see this violence. But a few people have been arrested in a violent manner, so you can't say that the violence is only perpetrated by the protesters. I think that the removal of the tents is outrageous...this is happening because of a real anger and a gut feeling. The people feel that they are being disrespected."
It is also being reported that police and government officials are planning another overnight raid in a matter of minutes to further destroy Tel Aviv's central and surrounding protest tent encampments.
Weeks ago, I warned of the dangers such evictions and demolitions could have in inflaming Israel's protesters:
As the already-massive social justice protests continue to expand in Israel beyond the middle class, they will continue to move into countless under-represented communities in Israel. As this happens, as more and more tent cities pop up, as is happening on a daily basis, municipal leaders must not only be vocally castigated for trying to dismantle such tent communities. They must also be warned of the risks involved in slating for demolition any protest camp, especially those constructed by some of Israel’s weakest societal members – particularly as the large encampment in central Tel Aviv continues to pulse and thrive.
These protests, expansive in scope and spanning almost all segments of Israeli society, have so far been remarkably non-violent, a factor that has contributed to their overwhelming support from the Israeli public. One of the worst things that could happen to this movement, as it attempts to effect economic changes that could benefit all citizens, is for it to be needlessly provoked, either by municipality leaders or by the authorities.
As we’ve seen in other parts of the world, things can change quickly. Sparks are always smoldering under the surface.
While protest leaders have themselves taken down their tents, there has been no official call for all protesters to do so, and if such evictions and demolitions continue apace, particularly in Israel's poorer neighborhoods, the protests could take a violent turn. And that would be a loss for all parties involved.