Allegations of police brutality against members of the Ethiopian community in Israel brought more than a thousand protesters into the streets of Yerushalayim on Thursday.
Whistles blew and crowds chanted “Police state! Stop the violence, stop the racism!”
Demonstrators blocked the Light Rail and traffic backed up for miles, but police were ordered to show restraint and held back from dispersing them for approximately three hours in the afternoon.
Before it was over, things had turned violent, with rocks and bottles hurled at police officers. Two officers were injured.
The incidents that triggered the angry protest were captured on video. Earlier this week, an IDF soldier of Ethiopian descent was seen in a video being attacked by policemen in Holon without provocation.
In a second video, a resident of Be’er Sheva was allegedly beaten up by police without cause.
“They took my shoes and beat me with a crowbar,” says Walla Bayach, accusing inspectors from Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority of assaulting him because they said he was an illegal migrant.
The Authority claims that Bayach had first assaulted the inspectors after they asked him to present identification documents.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appealed for calm on Thursday evening.
“I sttongly condemn the beating of the Ethiopian soldier, and those responsible will be brought to justice,” Netanyahu promised.
“However, it is forbidden for anyone to take the law into his own hands,” he added.
Israel Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino met with representatives from the Ethiopian community on Thursday in an effort to calm tensions. Numerous other accusations of police brutality against the Ethiopian Israelis, many of whom were born or grew up in the country, have also surfaced in recent days.
Getahun Kobi Tefare who brought a bus of activists from Yavne told The Jerusalem Post how shocked he was by the video. “I never saw something like that since I came to Israel in 1991.”