Demonstrators have taken to the streets to voice their anger at perceived failures by leaders to rise to the unprecedented challenges heightened by the pandemic.
In Israel, rising public discontent coincides with record numbers of new coronavirus cases. Monday’s figure topped 1,600 for the day. The current count is 42,813 confirmed cases and 375 deaths.
For many, it underlines the sense that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has badly slipped up after appearing to have the virus firmly under control just two months ago.
Thousands of protesters rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday, with thousands more protesting outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Referring to Netanyahu’s ongoing trial on bribery and breach of trust charges – charges the Prime Minister denies – protesters held signs that read, “We’re saving democracy, we’re fighting corruption” and “No to dictatorship under cover of corona!”
Some blocked a tram line in Jerusalem’s main shopping district and damaged property, according to police. Video showed protesters attempting to break through the metal barriers on the street outside the Prime Minister’s residence. Police say they made 50 arrests throughout the evening.
Tuesday’s protest was led by the anti-corruption Black Flag movement, but the demonstration also focused on Israel’s deteriorating economic situation brought on by the pandemic. The country’s unemployment rate hit 21% this week and recent surveys have shown public trust in the government’s handling of the health crisis plummeting.
A Black Flag spokesperson told CNN that Netanyahu should resign and make way for someone who could solve the country’s problems rather than focus on defending himself in court. Roee Neuman also disputed claims the protest had a violent edge to it, describing it instead as “stormy.”
“We are talking about the frustration of people,” he said.
Protests over curfew in Serbia
Protests erupted into violence in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade last week during demonstrations sparked by the government’s plan to impose a curfew to try to curb a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
Authorities dropped that plan after two nights of rioting, instead reimposing a ban on indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, and closing all hospitality and retail venues between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
But protests continued in Belgrade and other cities, with the rallies evolving into wider dissent over the rule of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic.
Protesters allege he lifted the lockdown too soon so he could hold parliamentary elections in June – the first in Europe during the pandemic – and allowing large gatherings, bars and nightclubs to work at full capacity. They say he then tried to reimpose it after the vote as the number of infections escalated.