Ethiopian Community to Protest Death of Youth in Tel Aviv

Young Israelis light candles at the site where 24-year-old Yehuda Biadaga was shot and killed after a policeman opened fire at him in Bat Yam on Jan. 20. (Flash90)

Tel Aviv police have deployed hundreds of additional officers in anticipation of a planned protest by members of the Ethiopian community in the wake of the death of Yehuda Biadaga, z”l, who was shot by police in Bat Yam earlier in January. Thousands are expected to gather at the Azrieli Center Wednesday afternoon, and police expect protesters to attempt to close down the adjacent Ayalon Expressway, a main traffic artery in Tel Aviv. “If the protest remains non-violent, we will impose no limitations, and that includes the possibility of closing the highway for a short time,” Ha’aretz quoted police as saying.

The protesters are set to march from the Azrieli area northwards along Ibn Gvirol Boulevard, massing at Rabin Square. Police are planning the closure of all roads in the area. However, they will not tolerate further closures of the Ayalon Expressway, as occurred in another protest by the community in 2015. Most of the officers on the first line of security will be traffic police and regular police officers, the report said – but waiting in the wings will be Yassam special forces, who will be called in to deal with violent behavior, the report said.

The protest was called in the wake of the shooting of by police of Biadago in Bat Yam earlier in January. According to police, Biadago, 24, was shot when he charged an officer with a knife with intent to attack. Police were responding to a call about a domestic disturbance, in which Biadaga, who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in the past, threatened people in his apartment and outside on the street.

Family members angrily denounced the shooting, and blamed police for killing Biadaga. “When a terrorist is attacking they are told not to shoot, and when they do shoot it is at the legs,” Biadaga’s brother told Yediot Achronot. “Here they shot him in the upper body. He was a normal person in all respects, he went to school and was an honor student. His teachers were very happy with him. He went to yeshiva and then to the army,” the brother said, where he had several difficult experiences that led to his medical problems.

Biadaga’s father, a civilian volunteer for the police, angrily denounced the shooting, saying that the fact that he was Ethiopian was a factor. “Every weekend I volunteer to help the police, but from today I am throwing away my uniform because I am ashamed of the police. I cannot see them anymore. How long will they continue to relate to members of our community in this manner?”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the incident would be investigated thoroughly, but family members said at a press conference on Monday that the investigation was not being done properly. “Yehuda was outside with that knife for 51 minutes and no one was in danger,” said a family member. “The police officer saw an Ethiopian, a black man, and fired two shots,” he said, accusing Erdan of failing to relate to the inquiry with respect. Tzachi Lassry, the family’s attorney, said that “after a week and a half, the police internal affairs unit has yet to question any witnesses to the shooting.”

In a statement after the shooting, Erdan said that he expressed “my sorrow over the death of Yehuda Biadaga, z”l, and the tragic result of the incident in which he was shot. I expect a quick investigation and I will ensure that all lessons are learned. In recent years we have undergone some significant changes in our efforts to improve relations between police and the Ethiopian community, in order to prevent over-policing and to bring transparency to the actions of police, and to strengthen trust between police and the community.”

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