85 arrested after social protest turns violent following detention of leader

Eighty-five people were arrested overnight in Tel Aviv as a protest on Saturday night turned violent, with demonstrators smashing bank windows, blocking a highway and overturning rubbish bins following the detention of a social protest leader.

Many were released yesterday afternoon but police said they intended to press charges of disturbing public order against the remainder and against 11 people arrested on Friday along with Daphni Leef, a pivotal figure in the social protest movement that rocked Israel last summer.

At the Friday demonstration, Ms Leef and others had been attempting to re-establish a tent encampment on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard where they protested last year against high housing costs, touching off similar protests throughout the country that drew hundreds of thousands of mostly middle class Israelis dismayed at income disparities and the high cost of living.

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Those protests were entirely peaceful, but Saturday night’s demonstration veered out of control according to participants, who accused the police of hitting demonstrators.

“There were some people who simply went wild, banging on the windows of stores and breaking the windows of banks,” Shlomo Kraus, a demonstrator who was arrested and then released told reporters. “It wasn’t something planned. There was no leadership.”

Police officials denied brutality on the part of security forces and said that “protesters carried out acts of vandalism, blocked the Tel Aviv ring road and refused to disperse”.

Last year, the government promised reforms and the cost of education was cut, but many feel that basic grievances such as the high cost of housing and food have not been addressed.