Car park row protesters out in force

By Sasha Brenner

Around 800 people gathered in Jerusalem’s Kikar Safra on Saturday afternoon to protest what they called Mayor Nir Barkat's "capitulation" to the city's Charedi community over the Shabbat operation of a municipal car park.

On Friday, he agreed to a police request from to close it for two Saturdays in a row. The plan was to use that time to find another site to be used by visitors to the Old City.

Deputy Mayor Pepe Allalo of Meretz told the crowd :"This is just a warm-up demonstration. If he doesn't reopen the garage in two weeks, we'll fill the whole square."

The demonstration went off peacefuly but carried many carried banners claiming: "Jerusalem is for everyone." Speakers arrived at the hastily-arranged unprepared and without loud hailers. Many had to shout to make themselves heard.

Saturday's protest took place outside Barkat's office and directly over the underground car park at the heart of the dispute. The mayor had opened the garage last weekend, with the approval of his Charedi coalition partners.

Barkat's spokesman Evyatar Elad said that it would be reopened in two weeks if no alternative had be found by then.

    Last updated: 4:39pm, June 14 2009