My report from two demonstrations on Friday and their aftermath:
1. Al Masara. The military raided the Palestinian village on Thursday night (around 2 a.m.), entering homes with force and threatening people to stop the demonstrations "or things will get much worse… a child will be killed and it will be your fault…"
Unfortunately the intimidation worked.
Friday’s demo was quite small–only about 50 people, the great majority of whom were Israelis and internationals. The soldiers were in their regular formation plus some troops on roofs of houses in the village. The whole thing was pretty quiet and short and ended without notable events.
2. Sheikh Jarrah – As usual, the police blocked our entrance to the neighborhood (while allowing settlers and their friends to go in of course). Some 100 people gathered at the same place outside the neighborhood, where last week’s demo took place, shouting slogans etc. After a short while the police began organizing their troops and then the commanding officer ordered everyone to leave, declaring us an illegal demonstration (unlawfully, as some law experts present noted).
Shortly thereafter the troops approached and began arresting people who they perceived as organizers (almost everyone they got were the wrong people). In all 17 were arrested, including the head of ACRI (the American ACLU issued a statement). All the arrested were to be brought before a judge Saturday night. We are organizing a mass demonstration outside the courthouse, so I have a lot to do and will end here.
The 17 people arrested in Sheikh Jarrah were held for over 30 hours as the courts in Israel do not work on Saturday. We had organized a demonstration outside the courthouse on Saturday night, which is when arrestees from Friday and Saturday are brought in for arraignment. Over two hundred people came out to protest police brutality and violation of the freedom of speech. Due to the high profile of the arrested, some of the country’s most prominent lawyers represented them and exposed the lies of the police prosecutor who accused all 17 of "assaulting a police officer".
The prosecution was forced to withdraw the charge and was left with the much leaner, yet no more true, charge of illegal demonstration. After an hour and a half of examination and cross-examination, the judge went to her chamber to make her ruling. This took over two and a half hours. But finally, past 3 am, she ruled that the arrests were unwarranted and ordered the immediate release of everyone without condition.
All the while dozens of protesters remained outsice the court chanting slogans and cheering the arrested who could hear them in the court lock-up. One person was arrested in the protest outside the courthouse for filming a police officer who was filming us.
For pictures of the courthouse demo.