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Protests fuelled by economic, social grievances draw large crowds in Tel Aviv

Sunday September 04, 2011 08:29:26 PM, Agencies

Tel Aviv: An estimated 500,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, by far the largest demonstration in the social protest movement that has swept the country for two months.


Protesters marched down Rothschild Boulevard, a fashionable street which has been the site of a tent city for the last two months. The first tents were a protest against Israel's high housing prices, but the weekly demonstrations have grown to focus more broadly on Israel's socio-economic problems, reported Al Jazeera.


Many carried signs complaining about privatisation - Israel's once heavily state-run economy has been heavily privatised - and official corruption.

Some targeted specific businessmen believed to have benefited from their political connections, like the Ofer brothers, who have extensive holdings in Israel's oil and gas industry.


Tens of thousands also marched in other cities, according to local media reports. At least 50,000 people rallied in Jerusalem and 40,000 in Haifa; more than 50,000 turned out in a half-dozen other cities.


In Tel Aviv, many streets were closed to traffic, and Kikar HaMedina (State Square), the largest plaza in the city, was filled to capacity with demonstrators.


Organisers were unsure how many people would show up for Saturday night's rally. It was billed as the "million man march", and was widely advertised around the city; groups of volunteers, some with signs and drums, walked around Tel Aviv on Saturday afternoon urging people to attend.


But the attacks in Eilat last month, and the looming Palestinian bid for statehood, distracted attention from the movement. Only about 10,000 people marched in Tel Aviv last week. Organisers feared a small turnout this week would have killed the movement.




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