29/1/2009, Jerusalem – Violence, dozens of arrests and claims of police brutality have characterized the last few weeks in Sheikh Jarrah, every Friday, following weekly rallies protesting Palestinian eviction from homes and the takeover of these homes by Jewish settlers. Today, police seemed embarrassed and more hesitant in their dealings with ‘unruly’ Arabs and leftist protesters.
Yesterday, January 28, Justice Gad Erenberg of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, rejected police request to extend the remand of those arrested for disorderly conduct last week, January 22, until the end of legal proceedings, and ruled that leftist demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah are not illegal as claimed by the police. The judge wrote, “Because freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are basic rights, the police must protect those who assemble from others and not declare their gathering as illegal because they fear retaliation from others.” He further stated that the gatherings are legal as long as protesters do not disturb public order or disrupt traffic. The judge noted that according to eyewitness accounts, the protesters yelled at worshipers and even spat at one of them. From that moment on, the judge said, the gathering became illegal and therefore the arrests made afterwards were legitimate.
Turnout today was greater than previous weeks. Several hundred activists assembled carrying signs reading “Free Sheikh Jarrah”, “Stop Apartheid”, “There is no holiness in an occupied city” and “Eviction from homes hurts”. Across the street several right-wing activists staged a counter demonstration. The atmosphere was joyful but tense as both sides awaited police reaction. But, as the sun sank in the West, the serenity of the Sabbath overcame politics and all involved disperssed very quietly.