Ethiopian-Israelis planning renewed mass protests against racism

“We are going out so that there won’t be another Solomon Tekah,” said the organizers, referring to the 19-year-old shot by a police officer.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Leaders of the Ethiopian-Israeli community announced Saturday that they will resume mass street demonstrations against police violence and communal racism on Monday.

Solomon Tekah was killed last week during a scuffle with an off-duty policeman in Kiryat Haim, a suburb of Haifa. The officer, who was off-duty at the time, said he felt his life was in danger and fired a bullet into the ground which ricocheted and hit the 19-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli in the chest, killing him. The initial investigation appears to corroborate the officer’s claim.

The officer, who was off-duty at the time and, according to his account, with his wife and three small children at a public playground, said he had gone to intervene and help a young boy who was being beaten by three Ethiopian-Israelis, Arutz-7 said, quoting a Walla! report.

Walla! reported that the officer made an emergency call to police four minutes before the shooting, saying that he was being attacked with stones. In fact, he was injured and treated at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, the report said.

Huge protests erupted all over the country on Monday and Tuesday, with Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters blocking major intersections for hours and some becoming violent, leading to dozens of policemen being injured and over 100 arrests. Tekah’s family called for calm during the week of mourning for their son, and the community largely obeyed their request.

“The death of Solomon Tekah is a great tragedy,” Prime Minister Netanyahu stated on Wednesday. ”Our hearts are with the family and lessons will be learned, but one thing is clear: we cannot tolerate the violence we saw yesterday, we cannot see the blocking of roads, Molotov cocktails, attacks on police and citizens and private property. This is something that cannot be tolerated, and the police are preparing accordingly to prevent it.”

The mourning period ended on Sunday morning. “We are going out so that there won’t be another Solomon Tekah,” said the organizers, according to a Channel 12 report. “We understand the family’s request, but this protest isn’t about Solomon Tekah, it’s about the next Solomon Tekah.”

The Ethiopian-Israeli community has long complained of being victimized by police, alleging that they are stopped randomly for searches and are arrested much more frequently than are “white” Israelis.

The government established the Palmor Committee in 2015 in response to mass protests following the airing of a video of an Israeli of Ethiopian descent being beaten on the street by a policeman for no apparent reason. The community’s claims of systematic discrimination were found to be valid, especially concerning the charge of over-policing.

Many of the committee’s recommendations, including changes in police behavior, have been implemented, but not all, and the community still charges the authorities with blatantly discriminatory conduct towards dark-skinned citizens.

Although they called for restraint last week out of respect for the traditional mourning period, Tekah’s parents, Worka and Wbjig, are angry and do seek justice for their son. According to a Channel 13 report Saturday night, they condemned the “leaks” from the internal police investigation of the incident, which, they said, were “meant to distract the public conversation from the main issue — an Israeli youth of Ethiopian descent, unarmed, shot to death by a cop.”

The main demonstration is to be held at the Azrieli intersection in central Tel Aviv.