Hundreds of anti-overhaul protesters gathered outside a Petah Tikvah police station Monday evening, after an activist was detained at home and questioned over alleged plans to carry out violent activities.
Though the activist, Itzik Medina, was released after a short time, flag-waving and vuvuzela-blaring protesters continued to demonstrate through the city, warning that the arrest was another step toward an Israeli dictatorship.
“What happened tonight could happen to all of us,” Medina said to the crowd assembled outside the station, shortly after his release. “They came to my home and they simply picked me up.”
Medina left the station around 10 p.m. Police told Hebrew media he had been free to go for some time before departing, but had stuck around to demand an apology.
Medina’s detention marks the first time that the police have summoned an anti-judicial overhaul protester at home, rather than as part of a demonstration.
Protests have accused the security establishment of ramping up efforts against demonstrators.
“We warned it would happen, the writing was on the wall,” read a message circulating on protest WhatsApp groups, shortly after Medina’s detention.
The message accused National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has pushed the police to come down harder upon the 25-week-long anti-overhaul protest movement, of “send[ing] police officers to make preventive arrests.”
Medina similarly blamed Ben Gvir or the Shin Bet security service for his detention, saying he believed the police were only “an emissary.”
In the highly charged atmosphere, a man drove his car into a protester, who was injured and taken to the hospital. The police said they arrested a 53-year-old resident of the city shortly thereafter.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 26, 2023
In a separate incident, a man was videotaped pulling a handgun on an anti-judicial reform protester.
אזרח שולף נשק על מפגין
פתח תקוה 26/06 pic.twitter.com/x2UOZ2G63Q
— אלימות ישראל (@Alimut_Israel) June 26, 2023
In the initial hours following Medina’s questioning, confusion remained among protesters and conflicting media reports as to whether Medina was detained by the police, or reported to the police station of his own accord.
In Medina’s recounting of events, “Five armed police officers, from Petah Tikvah, during a dinner with my children, arrived, knocked on the door, identified themselves, they didn’t want to bother, waited a bit until I ate something, I went outside and they took me to the station.”
Medina called the event “incitement,” and the crowd surrounding him chanted, “Shame.”
The Ynet new site reported that Medina said, “I was accused of planning to harm public figures, I am not threatening anyone,” upon his release.
The police, and Hebrew media, initially pushed a different frame to the events, saying that the police went to Medina’s home on Monday evening, and told him they wanted to question him. Police asked Medina to come in for questioning on Tuesday, but Medina arrived at the station this evening of his own will, the initial version continued.
The police later clarified that they “detained a Petach Tikvah resident for questioning a short time ago, as part of examining information received regarding suspected intentions of violent activity.”
Shortly thereafter, the police sent a second clarification, saying that Medina “was not arrested and, at the end of his interrogation, he was released without conditions.”
Following a call from Brothers and Sisters in Arms for activists to protest at the police station, hundreds of protesters gathered. Medina is an activist affiliated with the group, leaders of the organization confirmed.
“We warned everyone that this was coming, and now it’s here. This is a window into our future under a dictatorship. But we the people will never surrender,” said Yiftach Golov, a spokesperson for Brothers and Sisters in Arms.