by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
Clashes between police and Israeli citizens of Ethiopian ethnicity, on Sunday, descended into one of Tel Aviv’s most violent demonstrations.
The protests were sparked after a video emerged showing a policeman physically assaulting an Ethiopian Israeli soldier.
Hundreds of Israeli-Ethiopian Jews took to the streets on Thursday to protest, in a peaceful march, against police brutality and systemic racism towards the Ethiopian community. The incident escalated on Sunday, however, as police used tear gas, a water cannon, and stun grenades to stem the disorder.
The Ethiopian community, which numbers around 120,000 out of Israeli’s population of over 8 million, has long complained of discrimination, racism and poverty.
“We are demonstrating against police brutality, the police are using disproportionate force against Israeli-Ethiopian civilians and there are many cases where they have been beaten by the police,” said Avi Tesema, a protestor.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet protesters, as well as the soldier from the video, on Monday (4th of May). In a statement, he said:
“I unequivocally condemn the striking of the soldier from the Ethiopian community and those responsible will be brought to justice but nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands.”
Two policemen were suspended on suspicion of using excessive force.
Israel’s most recent incidence of police brutality involving an Ethiopian Israeli was last year, when police used a Taser gun on a 22-year-old Ethiopian Israeli suspected to have broken into a house. After being taken to the police station, he was found by his family bound and unconscious. His death, several months later, was ruled a suicide by police.