‘March of the Million’: Over 460,000 protest across country
Demonstrators in Tel Aviv’s Kikar Hamedina take part in huge rally demanding social justice; Student Union chair to PM: “Let us live in this country”; Large demonstrations in J’lem, Haifa, Afula.
An estimated 460,000 people gathered across the country on Saturday evening to protest for social change as part of the “March of the Million,” Channel 10 news reported.
Over 300,000 people were in Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv where a huge rally was taking place after a march through the streets of the city.
Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmueli called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “Let us live in this country,” during a speech at the rally in Kikar Hamedina.
“Mr. Prime Minister, take a good look at us: We’re the new Israelis,” he told the hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered as part of the social protest movement rally.
“We want only one thing: To live in this country. We want not only to love the State of Israel, but also to exist here respectfully, and to live with dignity,” he said.
Protests were taking place in 20 different cities across the the country including in Jerusalem, Haifa and Afula.
The demonstration was billed as the climactic street protest of a movement that has seen tent cities sprout up and forced quality-of-life issues into the forefront of the political debate.
An estimated 25,000 demonstrators crowded into Paris Square, opposite the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Toddlers sitting on shoulders blew plastic trumpets, teenagers in youth movement shirts danced and sang “My Bibi has three apartments” to the tune of “Haman’s Hat Has Three Corners,” and die-hard activists waved their well-worn signs as thousands thronged through the King George Street.
“We came because the older people also need to come and show their support and encourage the younger generation,” said Hani, a 60-year-old Jerusalem resident marching with her husband. “There’s a real chance that something will change, things have already changed,” she said. “There’s a change in thinking, there’s hope for optimism, that the way things were is not the way things are going to be.”
Other demonstrators expressed more cynicism. “I’m pessimistic but trying to be optimistic, I’m doubtful that there will be a big change, but even if there’s a small change it will be something,” said Lehi, who pushed her 11-month-old son, Tom, in a stroller. Tom had been to many of the protests so far, said Lehi, adding that perhaps someday he’ll be able to look back and say he was at the Million Man March in Jerusalem. “I hope when he is older he will go out and demonstrate for the things that are important to him,” she said. “This struggle is not just important to make a change, it’s important for the country, that the country stands up. People need to go out and demonstrate for what’s important.”
The High Court of Justice ruled on Friday that the Transport Ministry would run increased numbers of trains and replacement bus services on Saturday night, to allow people to travel to Tel Aviv to take part in the “March of the Million” protest.
The emergency hearing was the result of a petition filed by attorney Shraga Biran of the ‘Awakening In Jerusalem’ social movement, after Israel Railways announced plans to close the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv and Beersheba – Tel Aviv lines on Saturday night.
The petition argued that the rail line closures made it impossible for those without private transport to travel to Tel Aviv to attend Saturday night’s social justice protest march.
As part of the judgment, made by Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melzar, Israel Railways have placed a notice on their website stating that extra trains will run on the Tel Aviv coastal line and that the Transport Ministry will run replacement bus lines on the Tel Aviv-Beersheba and Tel Aviv-Jerusalem routes.