"What we saw was not popular protest, but a series of planned violations of the rule of law," Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said Sunday in reference to clashes between social justice protesters and police in Tel Aviv last weekend.
"Freedom of protest must not turn into chaos," he said.
- Thousands take to streets in demand of social justice
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- 'Authorities are trying to silence the public'
Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem organized by the accountant general's office, Danino called the protesters' claim of excessive violence by police "unfounded," but stressed he was "not ignoring the images in newspapers and on the Internet" and that an internal taskforce has been set up within Tel Aviv District Police to probe the police officers' conduct and allegations of excessive use of force."
"We do not regret Friday's occurrences, but some things, such as the arrest of (social protest leader) Dafni Leef, could have been done differently. All those involved, including the police, must draw the necessary lessons," said the police commissioner.
'Policy hasn't changed.' Violent protest in Tel Aviv (Photo: AFP)
Addressing last summer's social justice demonstrations, Danino said they passed off without violence due to the "mature behavior displayed by all sides involved" and due to the "understandings reached between the protesters and police."
Police brutality? Social protester arrested (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Danino said this time around the protesters did seek police authorization in advance and "notified us they would be holding illegal rallies."
"This is disrespectful of the public and the protesters themselves," the commissioner told the conference. According to him, these "illegal demonstrations" exact "too heavy a price from Israeli society."
On Sunday indictments were filed against 14 social justice protesters who were arrested during the violent demonstration in Tel Aviv. The protesters were charged with rioting and disturbing the peace.
Later that day, dozens of people held social justice rallies in Jerusalem and Haifa.
On Monday social justice protesters disrupted a Tel Aviv City Council meeting in protest against Mayor Ron Huldai's policies.
Police Commissioner Danino dismissed the protesters' allegations of excessive force by officers who did not allow them to pitch tents on Rothschild Boulevard, saying Israel Police's policy "has not changed.
"Securing the freedom to protest is our duty," Danino said, "but this freedom must not turn into chaos, and it does not include the right to damage property or hurt others."
Noam (Dabul) Dvir contributed to the report