Israeli social justice protesters fight with police Saturday during a Tel Aviv demonstration.
By msnbc.com staff
Police arrested 89 demonstrators after more than 6,500 people converged around Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Saturday night to protest the arrest a day earlier of activist leader Daphni Leef, Israeli media reported.
About 20 demonstrators were arrested after breaking into branches of three banks, Haaretz newspaper of Tel Aviv reported. Windows at two other banks were shattered, it said.
A large police contingent was stationed in the city center starting Friday afternoon in anticipation of the Saturday demonstration, which police said was illegal and unlicensed, Haaretz said.
Chanting “Emergency protest! Returning power to the people,” demonstrators confronted police Saturday, Haaretz said.
Activists told Haaretz one protester was arrested by an undercover police officer when he entered an abandoned building that the police were using as a staging area.
The Times of Israel said Leef and 12 other protesters had been released Friday night but police planned to press charges. Earlier Friday evening, officers dragged Leef into a police vehicle and protesters surrounded it, preventing it from driving away for nearly an hour, the Times said.
Police said officers made the Friday arrests because demonstrators trying to pitch tents in an effort to revive last summer’s protest movement against rising housing and food prices assaulted and abused them, the Times reported.
“They began attacking inspectors and officers, swearing, spitting and hurling objects at them,” read the statement obtained by the Times. Police would not authorize “illegal protests that endanger the public,” it said.
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