Police arrest 85 after protest sparks violent clashes

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The Independent Online

Scores of demonstrators clashed with police, smashed bank windows and blocked roads in Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv at the weekend during a protest against the arrest of a social activist.

Police said they detained 85 people at the rally on Saturday night, the latest sign of a nationwide protest movement demanding social reforms and affordable housing. People taking part in the rally said they were angered after a protest leader, Daphni Leef, said she had been injured while being taken into custody during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Friday.

Hundreds of people gathered in the city late on Saturday and parts of the crowd clashed with police into the early hours of yesterday, live television footage showed.

"Over 1,500 people demonstrated at various places in Tel Aviv until a point where the protests turned violent and there were disturbances. They blocked roads and smashed windows at five banks and until 3am, 85 people were arrested," a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said.

Last summer, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets and tent cities mushroomed across the country in an unprecedented campaign for economic and social reform that caught the government by surprise. The protests prompted the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a panel, chaired by the economist Manuel Trajtenberg, which recommended raising welfare spending and lowering defence expenditure. Activists, however, say the reforms have not gone far enough.