RAMALLAH, Feb 3 (JMCC) - More than a hundred protesters gathered in Manara Square in central Ramallah
Wednesday night to display their support for the ongoing anti-government protests in Egypt before being dispersed by police less than half an hour later.
“They came with their sticks and started to push us away from the Manara,” one protester, who asked not to be named, said. “We would scream at them, that we aren’t doing anything bad, that they should let us protest.”
Police and security forces, some on duty and others in civilian clothing, ignored the pleas and pepper-sprayed the protesters before arresting seven.
Human Rights Watch issued a press release criticizing the Palestinian security forces for punching and kicking protesters, journalists and a Human Rights Watch employee.
The Palestinian Authority
should immediately make clear that its ‘state-building' training of security forces does not include beating peaceful demonstrators, said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The PA should take action against the responsible police officers or the US and EU should find another use for their taxpayers' money.
After security forces intervened, protesters re-collected in two groups – one at the central square and another chanting in front of the police station demanding the release of their colleagues. All seven were eventually released hours later.
Protesters claimed this as the first successful solidarity protest in Ramallah. On Sunday, attempts to demonstrate at the Egyptian representative office in Ramallah failed as security forces reportedly detained the main organizer of the event and then refused to allow demonstrators to gather.
Organizers say that this time they were more careful and avoided social networking sites such as Facebook out of fear of being identified by the authorities. Instead, they used word of mouth and text messaging to spread the news.
Palestinian government spokesperson Ghassan Khatib
said that “the government has no policy of preventing peaceful demonstrations” and “any behavior to the contrary should be reviewed.”
Protesters were far from discouraged by the security response.
“We aren’t going to let them stop us,” the protester said, “There will be more attempts to protest, maybe tomorrow and after.”