Third Night of Protests Mostly Peaceful

YERUSHALAYIM -
Police forces walk during a protest for the death of 18-year old Solomon Tekah of Ethiopian descent, after he was shot by police, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 2, 2019. (Reuters/Corinna Kern)

 

Ethiopian Israeli protests on Wednesday night were muted compared to the out-of-control street scenes of the night before, though there were some clashes with police around the country.

The change was attributed to two factors: stern warnings from Israeli authorities that two nights of anarchy was sufficient to prove restraint on the part of law enforcement and that the streets would now be returned to the law-abiding public; and an appeal from the Tekah family, whose son’s killing touched off the protests, to desist.

“We lost a son, and we ask the public not to hold public protests until the shiva ends [on Sunday], and to act with restraint and patience. At the conclusion of the shiva, we will hold our just and legitimate protests in an organized fashion, in coordination with all the relevant parties, and without disrupting public order, certainly without violence,” a statement from the family said.

The were demonstrations on Wednesday night, but generally quieter than what went on previously.

Ethiopians and supporters take part in a protest in Tel Aviv, Wednesday. Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

A disturbance near Tel Aviv’s Azreli Towers, led to several arrests. Police in riot gear formed a cordon to block protesters from interfering with traffic at the city’s main artery. But most of the hundreds of protesters were peaceful.

In Kiryat Ata, which has seen the ugliest outbursts, a large group marched without incident from the local police station to the scene of Solomon Tekah’s killing by an off-duty police officer on Sunday.

After police moved in to prevent protesters from blocking an interchange at Rishon Lezion, about 20 of them engaged in rock-throwing.

In another tactic designed to defuse tensions, police decided not to assign Ethiopian-Israeli officers to the units sent to contain the disorders.

“We’re aware of the sensitivity of the situation for those officers, so it was decided not to place those officers in the ranks that will face the protesters, assigning them instead to other assignments,” a senior police source disclosed to the Walla news site.

Approximately 900 Ethiopian-Israelis serve in the police ranks.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the crisis, stressing that while unlawful conduct would not be tolerated further, efforts are under way to resolve some of the issues agitating the Ethiopian Israeli community.

“This community is dear to us. I say this as someone who today will chair a meeting of the ministerial team that is dealing with the problems of this community.

“We held discussions about over-policing, about changing patterns of behavior vis-à-vis members of the Ethiopian community. This has already led to an improvement and it could be that we need to bring about many more improvements but one thing is certain. This cannot be dealt with by blocking roads or by violence; by responsible means certainly, to this end we are convening the committee,” the prime minister said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan together with acting Police Commissioner Major General Motti Cohen met with representatives of the Ethiopian-Israeli community ahead of Wednesday night’s protests, hoping to head off further violence.

Erdan promised to establish a disciplinary body in the police department to deal with allegations of racist conduct, according to a press release.

The level of anxiety over the direction of events was indicated by Erdan’s remark over Army Radio that intelligence suggested there was a possibility demonstrators could be “firing live ammunition at police officers.”

Police said Wednesday that 136 people have been arrested since the start of demonstrations on Sunday. Those arrested were held on suspicion of assaulting police officers, vandalism and disturbing public order.

The Magen David Adom emergency medical service said it treated 83 people—47 police officers, 26 protesters, 9 passersby and one firefighter. Police said 111 officers had been injured in all.

However, notwithstanding the dismay over numerous incidents of violence, a survey of local media by The Times of Israel showed that “most of Tuesday’s protesters were not engaged in clashes [with police] or vandalism.”

 


Updated Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at 3:27 pm updated info