A non-violent demonstration in A-Ram today (26.6.04) turned into a battlefield, when the Border Police used, for two hours, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and water cannon against it.
All signs indicate that it was a well-prepared police ambush.
The Israeli demonstrators, mostly activists of Gush Shalom and Ta’ayush, arrived in five full buses at A-Ram roadblock. To their surprise, they were received with smiles by the Border Policemen and passed the checkpoint without trouble. One of the policemen told the people in one of the buses: “I hope you know what you are getting into.”
The Israeli demonstrators joined the inhabitants of A-Ram in a peaceful march, headed by the local youth orchestra and Israeli and Palestinian parliamentarians, religious personalities and political leaders, including MK Ahmed Tibi, Uri Avnery and Mayor Sirhan Saleimeh. In a symbolic act of protest, some demonstrators used big hammers against the cement slabs that lie along the road, ready to be installed.
Suddenly, a large force of Border Police appeared on top of the hill that overlooks the road. Without any prior warning, that shot dozens of tear gas grenades at the demonstrators and all ways of escape. Many of the protestors were hurt by inhaling the gas. The demonstrators dispersed in all directions, mostly into alleys, buildings and shops, with policemen pursuing them and shooting gas grenades after them.
That was the beginning of a prolonged attack on the dispersed demonstrators. Whenever a group of activists assembled, the police attacked them with gas, rubber-coated bullets and streams of water. The main road of A-Ram looked like a battlefield, littered with burned cases and abandoned posters.
At this stage, local boys started to throw stones at the policemen, well beyond the effective distance, and from time to time the policemen stormed forwards and arrested the youths. In one of the Palestinian ambulance, the shooting cause a fire.
There is not a grain of truth to the story spread by the police that somebody “threw an axe” or “giant hammers” at a police jeep. This is manifestly absurd. All the events were documented on video, as well as filmed by foreign TV crews and press photographers. Another story, that Palestinians wounded a press photographer, is also a complete lie. He was hurt by policemen before the eyes of dozens of witnesses.
Several protesters were arrested and brought to the police station Neve Ya’acov settlement. The Palestinians were seated on the ground, their eyes covered and their hands bound. When the Israeli detainees were told that they were free to leave, they refused, out of solidarity with their Palestinian comra des.