Clashes as Ethiopian Israelis protest ‘police brutality’
A Tel Aviv rally of thousands of Ethiopian Israelis against alleged police brutality and institutionalised discrimination turned violent Sunday as clashes erupted between protesters and police, an AFP correspondent said.
Mounted police used riot dispersal methods to prevent groups of demonstrators from storming the Tel Aviv municipality.
Police said five officers were injured by stones and bottles hurled by protesters, one of whom was arrested.
Sunday’s protest came three days after a stormy demonstration in Jerusalem sparked by footage showing two policemen beating a uniformed Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin.
Scores of other Israelis also joined Sunday’s rally, chanting and holding up signs reading: “A violent policeman must be put in prison” and “We demand equal rights”.
As they marched central Tel Aviv, some held their arms in the air, wrists crossed as if handcuffed.
Demonstrators had blocked the Ayalon expressway for a long time during rush-hour, causing huge traffic jams on one of the country’s central highways before police forcefully evacuated them.
Protesters then walked to the Tel Aviv municipality, where they clashed with police.
“Being black, I have to protest today,” 34-year-old Eddie Maconen told AFP before the clashes broke out.
“I never experienced police violence against me personally, but it is aimed at my community which I have to support,” he said.
Maconen, who came to the country aged three, said the protesters wanted violent policemen to be put on trial before deeper issues of social inequality were tackled.
“First the police need to be dealt with, then we’ll get to all the other (official) bodies that screw over Ethiopians,” he said.
Police estimated 3,000 people attended the demonstration, while media reports cited organisers as putting the number at 10,000.
Zion Cohen, an Israeli who joined the demonstration, told AFP the Ethiopians were “a hundred percent right” to protest.
“It’s a racist country and we don’t accept them,” he said.
As the rally began, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying that on Monday he would meet Damas Pakada, the soldier who was beaten, as well as other representatives of the Ethiopian community.
Police had pledged a crackdown on those members of the force who have used violence after the video footage went public.
More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, having immigrated in two waves in 1984 and 1991.
But they have struggled to integrate into Israeli society, despite massive government aid.