Protest leaders gear up for march of the million

Marches are planned for Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, Nahariya, Carmiel, Hod Hasharon, Mitzpeh Ramon, and Ness Ziona.

The social protest leaders are readying the march of the million on Saturday night, seven weeks after the tent protest on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard began. The march will begin at Tel Aviv's Habima Square, at the northern end of the boulevard and head for Kikar Hamedina in north Tel Aviv, where the main demonstration will be held at 9:30 pm.

Additional protest marches will be held in other cities and towns nationwide.

Notwithstanding the name "march of the million", the protest organizers have been careful to lower expectations, saying that the participation of several hundred thousand protesters will be enough to get their message across, like the 300,000 who participated in the Kaplan Street demonstration in Tel Aviv three weeks ago.

"I dont like engaging in numbers," protest leader Stav Sapir told "Globes". "I dont want to promise one million or fewer protesters, and I dont want to cite any number because the message is the important thing. We didnt set one million as a target, a protester did. Nevertheless, a million people is one-seventh of Israel's population, and we're in the seventh week of the protest.

"Therefore, everyone who until now has watched the protest marches on TV and considered themselves as part of the protest, should go out, come and call out with all their might until the hotels housing the vacationing MKs shake."

Saturday night's march is expected to repeat the successful demonstrations of the protest's early weeks. In the past couple of weeks, the social protest has been pushed to the margins of the public dialogue, with security and criminal incidents taking center stage. The protest leaders say that they will carry on the struggle long after summer.

Sapir says, "The struggle is longer than the summer. We have no intention of folding our tents. The tent camp on Rothschild Boulevard is one of 100 camps across the country. People living in the tents have no home to return to. We will continue the struggle so long as the government continues to ignore us. It is trying to stall, to wait until the protesters tire, and expects the events in September will cause the protest to fade away. We havent yet applied all the force we have against the government. We have creative ways to continue the protests, such as shut-downs."

The events of September that Stav is referring to is the likely UN General Assembly declaration of a Palestinian state on September 21.

Protest leader Yigal Rambam told "Globes", "After September 3, we will all be much wiser about the various measures taken as part of the protest. Things that are not clear to us now will be clearer then. At the moment, there is no point in divulging details, because all our activists are preparing for Saturday night's big march."

Rambam declined to predict how many people will come to the protest marches in Tel Aviv and other cities. "I dont believe that a million people will turn up. I'm bad at counting heads and I'm not a cowboy," he said, adding, "We mustnt forget that this target was set by people who do not represent the struggle. We didnt set it. Multitudes will likely come, possibly more at other focal points around the country. More than the numbers, the determination is what is important. It's important for people to march with same passion and fervor that they had in the first marches."

Rambam added, "Even 20,000 people at a demonstration are a lot; that was how many participated last week. It is important to continue the dialogue. Officials at the banks and Tax Authority are acting differently now; they are more generous. These are hunches; it's what I'm hearing from people. Bank clerks are no longer yelling at customers. Thanks to this protest people have become citizens."

In addition to Tel Aviv, protest demonstrations are marches are planned for Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, Nahariya, Carmiel, Hod Hasharon, Mitzpeh Ramon, and Ness Ziona. The march of the million's official Facebook page lists businesses in Tel Aviv that will be closed for at least two hours to allow their employees to participate in the march and encourage others to join them.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 1, 2011

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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