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Why have protests begun to feel like warzones? – analysis


Demonstrators react as police officers start detaining them during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged corruption and economic hardship stemming from lockdown during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, near his residence in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Demonstrators react as police officers start detaining them during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged corruption and economic hardship stemming from lockdown during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, near his residence in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

The beginning of protests in the middle of the summer marked a peak in civil unrest, but the new spike is alarming to many, as it marks protests as a war zone between police and demonstrators.

During the 15th week of protests, 39 people were arrested in Tel Aviv in chaotic clashes between police and demonstrators. Until then, there had been almost no arrests at Tel Aviv protests, in contrast to protests near Balfour Street, across from the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Jerusalem, in which numerous protesters were arrested for “assaulting an officer of the law” per week.

The beginning of protests in the middle of the summer marked a peak in civil unrest, but the new spike, ahead of the 16th week of protests, is alarming to many, as it marks protests as a war zone between police and demonstrators.
So where does the clash between the two institutions truly lie?
Brig.-Gen. Asaf Agmon (res.), who has participated in dozens of protests – and has been one of the lead organizers of the demonstrations in Jerusalem – told The Jerusalem Post of one of the more conflicted cases of tensions between the two groups: When he was allegedly attacked by police officers across.
He explained that he had been protesting for a few hours when a municipality officer and a police officer attempted to take his sign down. He claimed to argue with them until they left. A few minutes later, he said, “the police officer ran up behind me, took my sign and ran off. I ran after him.”
Agmon stated that he eventually reached an electricity pole and clung onto it as he was repeatedly attacked by police officers surrounding him. After they stopped, he was fined and arrested for supposedly assaulting a police officer.
He was later told by police that he had been taken in for resisting arrest.
“The moment an officer of the law attempts to arrest you and you oppose it or try to get out of it, it can be classified as the assault of an officer,” Yair Nehorai, one of the legal advisers for the protesting movement No Way (Ein Matsav), told the Post. “For example, if you do not have a mask on, they attempt to reprimand you, and if you resist by swatting away their hand or something like that, it is considered assaulting a police officer.”
A source close to the police’s viewpoint on the encounter with Agmon, however, told the Post that Agmon had been told that the reason his sign needed to be taken down was because it was hung on the Menorah in front of the Knesset, which is illegal. He resisted.
But is resisting a legitimate reason to take someone into police custody?
Nehorai explained that a police officer must, within reason, tell a protester what they are being stopped for before arresting them. However, sources close to the police’s handling of protests claim that such a necessity is impossible during such heated conflicts surrounded by hundreds of protesters.
“There is no argument that the police are trying to use the law to break apart the protests,” Nehorai told the Post. “If they came up to people and told them to put on a mask, they would put on a mask. When you come, and the police come and enter the audience and look for people that do not have the mask over their noses, it is clear that the goal is to break apart the protest.”
Protesters then see police as being told to close down protests in order to limit the voices of those who are unsatisfied with the government. Others, however, see it as a necessary precaution due to the current coronavirus regulations.
This situation has created a sense of police versus protest, institution versus a social movement. Israel Police’s purpose is to protect all citizens equally and, while protesters do not feel that is the case, the general stance of Israel Police seems to be that protesters must be protected, but so must those outside of the protests who are negatively impacted by them, due to which police officers must nevertheless exercise limitations upon protests.
“Israel Police, even today, has not given me the feeling that they are protecting me, as a citizen of Israel with equal rights to every citizen, unrelated to my political inclination,” Agmon said. “I do not feel that the Interior Security Minister is protecting me: the opposite. I feel that he has police act against us. The fact that this has not ended in catastrophe yet is a miracle.”
And so, protests rage on, with aggression towards police only reinforcing those opposing Netanyahu’s policies with fury, which is brought out to protests and directed at police. Police, in turn, are walking a fine line: Protecting protesters, but also limiting them out of a sense of necessity.


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