Police fire tear gas, stun grenades to disperse crowd protesting reforms
Tel Aviv/Jerusalem, Mar 1 (EFE).- Several people were arrested in Israel on Wednesday during another round of mass protests against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms.
Waving Israeli flags and banners calling for “democracy”, demonstrators in several Israeli cities blocked roads and disrupted trains in what they described as another “day of rage” against the right-wing coalition government’s reforms to the justice system, which protesters believe would erode the authority of the Supreme Court and grant excessive powers to the executive.
The protests – which started two months ago and have seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets on multiple occasions – led to clashes in Tel Aviv, the country’s largest city, where police fired tear gas and stun grenades to clear the demonstrators, some of whom accused the force of being a “dictatorial police force.”
At least 16 people have been arrested, police said.
“Police are beating young people participating in a non-violent demonstration in Ayalon,” in central Tel Aviv, organizers said on social media.
Protests have also been called for the afternoon in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, where debates on the reforms are scheduled to resume, specifically the so-called “annulment clause”, which would allow a simple majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings and would undermine the judiciary’s political independence.
The reforms have sparked widespread condemnation from broad segments of Israeli society.
After the end of the plenary session in the Knesset, demonstrators also plan to protest in Jerusalem in front of Netanyahu’s private residence, before marching to the official residence of president Isaac Herzog.
Temporary strikes were also taking place in several workplaces and schools, while protests have been held in front of the homes of lawmakers and coalition ministers, including Parliament Speaker Amir Ohana.
Police have warned of a “zero tolerance towards disturbances of order, damage to property and damage to government symbols”, and that they would not allow road blockades that were not planned in advance.
The Minister of National Security, the ultra-nationalist Itamar Ben Gvir, referred to the demonstrators as “anarchists”, insisting that they would not be allowed to carry out any blockades.
Last week, Parliament approved two of the bills included in the reform, which would change the composition of the judges’ selection committee and would restrict the Supreme Court’s ability to review and change laws.
Israel’s attorney general has warned Netanyahu that he cannot participate in judicial reform because of a conflict of interest as he faces charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. EFE