Police caught unaware by number of anti-pullout protesters (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Roni Singer 05/17/05)
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At 6 P.M. yesterday, a policemen on duty on the Geha highway called
his commanding officers for reinforcements. His superior responded
dramatically: "This is a war of attrition and we´ll have many more
like this soon. Meanwhile, stay calm, and you´ll get reinforcements
The handful of policemen under the Givat Shmuel bridge were surprised
by the size of the anti-disengagement demonstration there yesterday.
Intelligence reports had spoken of attempts to block the junction,
just like other junctions in the Tel Aviv area. But the number of
demonstrators took the police unaware; they estimate that some 1,000
Dozens of protesters, mainly young people, lay down on both sides of
the highway, held hands, and halted the flow of traffic. Very soon,
there was a giant traffic jam; drivers simply got out their cars and
came to watch the show. As soon as the police managed to remove one
youth, others took his place; supporters of the demonstrators, many
of them residents of Bnei Brak, called out with encouraging remarks.
More than 20 minutes passed while the youths sang and shouted as the
police tried to drag them off the road - before a busload of police
reinforcements accompanied by senior officers arrived on the scene.
The police began to drag the youths to the bus in order to place them
under arrest, until the driver announced that there were no more
places on the bus and he would not allow any more demonstrators to be
The hundreds of onlookers soon got out of hand and police were forced
to hose them down with jets of cold water. Despite this, most of them
retreated for just a few minutes, and then they were back.
Police had been on duty at all the major junctions on the Ayalon
freeway and the Geha highway since the early afternoon. Nevertheless,
they had great difficulty in dispersing the demonstrators when they
showed up to block traffic, as expected.
All the intelligence gathered by the police seemed to go for nought.
Police sources said that it would have been impossible to adequately
man all the junctions where the demonstrators were expected to try to
"We had to bear in mind that other places might also be blocked,"
they said. "And of course, there are the regular events that require
police presence in addition to the demonstrations, and we have to
have manpower ready for them too," the sources said.
After the the Ayalon freeway was first blocked two months ago, the
police held an inquiry and tried to better prepare for the next time.
The inquiry´s bottom line was that police had performed as well as
could be expected and that their performance should be evaluated by
the swiftness of their reaction rather than by their ability to
prevent demonstrators from blocking intersections.
Yesterday, police said this would remain their standard, "but that
when there are so many traffic blockages simultaneously, we cannot
promise anyone that we will arrive at the scene swiftly." (©
Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 05/17/05)
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