Ethiopians Protest at Knesset

ethiopians protest
Protesters in Yerushalayim, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several dozen Ethiopian Israelis took their protest over the killing of Solomon Tekah to the Knesset on Monday, the same day that the police officer accused in the case was released from house arrest.

While MKs inside held a discussion on the “Ethiopian issue,” the demonstrators outside chanted slogans, including “A murdering cop has to be in prison,” “We are all Solomon Tekah” and “Not black, not white, we’re all humans.”

The huge events involving tens of thousands of protesters have faded, at least in part due to a police warning that disorders of the kind that tied up traffic at major intersections for hours and left many people injured would not be tolerated.

On Monday afternoon, seven protesters were arrested for attempting to block traffic near the Knesset. Police noted that the demonstration had been issued a permit and protesters ignored their instructions not to disrupt traffic.

Salomon Tekah’s parents, who were in the Rose Garden outside the Knesset during the demonstration, would not comment on the release of the policeman by court order earlier in the day.

The family has urged the public to remain peaceful, but they too are bitter.

“The government shattered our hope and we have to watch out for each other. They didn’t invite us here today for peace. They’re here with pistols and weapons and waiting for our mistake in order to shoot,” said Worka Tekah, the father.

“My son’s already dead, I don’t want another child to die,” he added.

Last Wednesday, he declared that “We have lost trust in the (Justice Ministry’s) Police Internal Investigations Department,” at a memorial service for his son.

The family’s lawyer said that the officer’s release was a “direct continuation of unfortunate conduct” by officials.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) said its investigation indicated that the officer, who said he believed his life was in danger from attacking youths, fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted and struck Tekah, as he claimed. Officials are leaning toward charging the man with a disciplinary offense only, rather than manslaughter, according to media reports, prompting allegations of a whitewash.

On Monday, PIID chief Keren Bar Menachem met with the attorneys for Tekah’s family and relatives to update them on the progress in the investigation. The family’s attorneys asked to see the forensic reports and the results of Tekah’s autopsy and were told the request would be taken under consideration and an answer given soon, according to media reports.

A PIID representative indicated the investigatory phase was over and the case had been transferred to the State Attorney’s Office.

Tekah was shot two weeks ago by an off-duty policeman under circumstances that are not clear. According to police, the officer was in a park with his family during the evening hours of the Sunday night the incident occurred, when he noticed a fight breaking out among some teenagers. The off-duty officer tried to intervene and break up the fight. He identified himself as a police officer, but the youths then began throwing rocks at him. Police said the officer felt his life was in danger, and he opened fire. It is not clear if he was aiming at Tekah, but the youth was mortally wounded. He was rushed to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he died of his wounds. Witnesses said that Tekah was shot when he tried to run away from the officer.

The wife of the police officer in the shooting has also spoken out about the crisis in their lives since the incident, which has involved death threats against him.

“We’re trapped inside an apartment, and every few days we change location,” she told Channel 12 news. “We’re hardly sleeping at night. The fear is constant,” she said.

“Our photos were maliciously published all over. They were describing what they would do to our kids,” she said. “Our kids keep crying. They want to go out and see their friends. They try to ask questions, but at the moment, we’re not giving them too many answers.”

She denied that her husband’s actions had anything to do with racism.

“I share in his family’s grief, but I must emphasize that all the fuss about his ethnic background — that’s not us,” she said.

She said she hoped the investigation would not be influenced by the turmoil in the streets.

“We believe that the truth will come to light, and we’re getting support from acquaintances, friends and a lot of other people,” she said, adding that her husband hoped eventually to return to his job on the police force.

The officer’s father gave their version of the incident to Channel 13 on Friday, saying that while off-duty, his son had encountered a robbery in progress while walking with his family.

“They were trying to rob someone of their phone. When my son tried to prevent it and told them to get away, they challenged him and he identified himself as a police officer. But when he did, these people who hate cops, my son immediately got hit with stones,” he said, also speaking without being identified. “My son was there by chance. He tried to prevent a crime and everyone targeted him.”

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