In Tel Aviv, anti-government protests are descending into scenes of chaos, with protesters breaking onto the Ayalon Highway and being detained for engaging in violence. In Haifa, a group of Navy reservists sailed small boats into the harbor and blocked the port. In Jerusalem, five people were arrested on suspicion of having participated in a spray-painting of downtown streets, leading the Supreme Court, now decorated with a wide swathe of pink and red, apparently to represent the link between the Supreme Court and "culture, sport, leisure, and freedom of expression."
Meanwhile, protesters calling to "paint the country blue" and demonstrate their support of the government's judicial reform package are being threatened by police, ordered to stop handing out blue ribbons, and prevented from giving leaflets to passers-by explaining what the reforms are all about.
On Thursday, a senior police officer in the Sderot department was recorded warning the organizer of a pro-reform demonstration that, "If you have even one more person there than 50, you'll be arrested."
In general, all protests held in the open air require a police permit if more than 50 people gather. However, exceptions are granted to protests calling for "law and order," "decency in elected officials," or those against corruption in public officials. Such protests are not limited to 50 participants nor are the organizers obligated to obtain a permit.
The organizer of the pro-reform campaign tried to protest to the Sderot police officer that nothing illegal was being planned, but the officer was relentless and warned him again that failure to obtain a permit would result in the protest being declared illegal if more than 50 people turned up.
When the organizer pointed out that anti-government protesters have been blocking streets, the officer retorted that nothing of the kind had happened in his city, and that he would not be "drawn into intrigues."
In Kiryat Gat, meanwhile, the organizer of a pro-reform protest was summoned to the police station where he was informed that his group was prohibited from handing out blue ribbons to drivers at traffic lights, to signify their support for the reform program. In Ofakim, police contacted another pro-reform organizer who was told that his activities were not permitted.
In response to all these and other incidents, the Kol Yisrael movement issued a statement saying, "Israel Police has been coopted by the anti-reform protests. Those opposing the reforms are being allowed to run amok and cause disruption, block roads, and damage public property, while peaceful, legal, and legitimate protests in support of the reform are being called criminals and are threatened with arrest. The conduct of the police is yet another piece of evidence showing why the State of Israel needs to get back on track and why we need judicial reform."