TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Israeli cities for the ninth consecutive week on Saturday to fight against a government plan to overhaul the country’s court system.
Saturday night’s demonstrations in Tel Aviv and elsewhere began peacefully. However, footage released by police later showed protesters breaking down barricades in Tel Aviv and setting fires while blocking roads. The police sprayed water cannons on the demonstrators.
“I came to demonstrate against the revolution of the regime imposed on us by the Israeli government,” history teacher Ronen Cohen, 53, told Reuters. “I hope that this huge demonstration will take place and prove that we will not give up.”
The rallies have drawn huge crowds on a weekly basis since early January, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government took aim at the Supreme Court.
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The protesters oppose legislation that Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies hope will pass that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers to rule against the legislative and executive branches, while giving lawmakers crucial powers to appoint judges.
Supporters say the Supreme Court needs to rein in overreach in the political realm. Critics say the plan would weaken the courts, endanger civil liberties and harm the economy, as well as relations with Western allies.
The protests have intensified since Wednesday, when stun grenades were fired by Israeli police and clashes erupted in Tel Aviv during a nationwide “day of unrest”.
“There is a great danger that Israel will turn into a dictatorship,” Ofir Kubitsky, 68, a high school teacher, said on Saturday. “We come here to demonstrate again and again until we win.”
(Reporting by Emily Rose and Rami Amichai) Editing by David Holmes and Chizu Nomiyama
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