Student protest in Israel breaks out of police and leaders' control

Footage of protestors filling Ibn Gvirol, a main street in Tel Aviv
Ibn Gvirol, a main street in Tel Aviv

Massive assembly evolves into street-blocking march, as students protest against tuition hikes.

Submitted by Tojiah on April 26, 2007

The event began with a peaceful assembly at Museum Square in Tel Aviv, protesting plans for tuition hikes in Israeli public universities. The planned schedule included live performances by artists sympathetic to the cause, and speeches by various leftist politicians, celebrities and student leaders. Police claim that seeds of unrest could be sensed throughout. All was proceeding according to plan, until, at the end of his closing speech, Itay Barda, chairman of Tel Aviv University's student union, called upon the protestors to march to Rabin Square, located about 1km from that location. At that point, students started pouring into the street, bypassing police forces and blocking traffic, while many student leaders tried to control them, with little success. The police, completely unprepared for this eventuality, also failed to stop the march. As the students marched, passers-by showed support, as did quite a few of the blocked drivers.

After reaching Rabin Square, the march continued, with various voices calling "to Ayallon!", Ayallon Road being the main Israeli highway, serving all of the Dan metropolitan area, which includes Tel-Aviv. Thousands of protestors proceeded in that direction.

As they neared a main intersection minutes away from the highway, mounted police were finally able to stall the march for a while, but in vain. The protestors managed to break through to the main intersection. A contingent of them continued to the highway, ignoring student leaders, who were desparately calling on everyone to have a sit-in at the intersection.

For most protestors --- those who listened to their leaders as well as those who came afterwards and were simply unaware of the highway contingent --- this intersection was where the march ended, with the police trying to break up the sit-in, and the students trying to maintain it.

That was not the case for the few hundred who proceeded to the highway. They reached the highway, then blocked it for a few minutes, until the police finally mustered up the gendarmes and riot units, who violently pushed the protestors to the curb. At this point, it was obvious to all involved that the fight was over. This small contingent kept marching along the highway, then up the next exit, after which the students gathered at another intersection, where the various student delegates were coordinating busses taking various students back to their respective home cities.

In the aftermath, five people were reported injured: a policeman, a reporter and three students, and five additional students were taken in for questioning. This does not include the various students injured who did not require medical attention. Student leaders complained of police brutality, while police complained of alleged student violence, and of their disregard for the safety of others and their own. The struggle is set to continue with further protests and actions.