JERUSALEM – Police turned water cannons on a raucous demonstration by Ultra-Orthodox Jews Saturday, the second consecutive day of protests over the opening of a city parking lot on the Jewish Sabbath when religious Jews are forbidden to drive.
Thousands of Ultra-Orthodox protesters were on the streets throughout the city Saturday, Jerusalem Police Spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Police said they made 24 arrests and one 6-year-old boy was slightly hurt by a stone thrown by protesters. Four officers were lightly hurt as well.
In a major standoff near City Hall, several hundred Orthodox protesters in traditional black suits hurled rocks, garbage and glass bottles at police for several hours. Police broke into the crowd frequently and arrested people they described as instigators, many of them minors. Several of the arrested youths held their traditional black hats in front of TV cameras and prayed aloud as they were dragged to police cars.
At sunset Friday, thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters flooded Bar Ilan street, a deeply religious part of town, screaming "Shabbes," the Yiddish word for Sabbath, and pushing police and news photographers back several blocks before retreating.
The demonstrators surrounded police cars, hitting and kicking them. One police car was forced to drive in reverse through the crowd at about 25 mph (40 kph). Religious Jews believe driving violates the biblical command to rest on the Sabbath.
Police made no arrests Friday night, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Police used water cannons to subdue ultra-Orthodox rioters three weeks ago when Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat first opened the city parking lot on Saturdays. The parking lot was kept closed during the intervening two weeks.
The mayor opened the parking lot on the request of police who said illegal parking in the nearby Old City was blocking emergency vehicles, Barkat Spokesman Stephan Miller said. He said the mayor tried to appease ultra-Orthodox concerns by not charging for parking and hiring non-Jews to administer the lot.
About 1,000 secular Jews held a counter protest at City Hall on Saturday. Some held placards that read: "No Religious Coercion" and "Jerusalem is for everybody."
Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz of the liberal Meretz party told reporters at the secular protest: "The struggle for the parking lot is just a symbol for the bigger battle of Jerusalem as a free city and of Israel as a free country."