Hundreds of protesters took to central Tel Aviv Sunday evening to demonstrate over alleged police brutality and discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community, a year after similar protests resulted in some of the most intense clashes the city has ever seen.
Twelve Ethiopian-Israeli protesters were arrested after they “ignored police instructions and started disrupting the peace and blocking traffic,” the Israel Police said in a statement.
Protesters blocked roads and caused traffic jams along Kaplan Street, a major Tel Aviv thoroughfare.
Many were seen wearing shirts and carrying signs demanding justice for Yosef Salamsa, an Ethiopian-Israeli man who committed suicide in 2014, allegedly as a result of police abuse.
Earlier this year, investigators announced the criminal investigation into Salamsa’s death would be closed after no evidence of criminal conduct by police officers was uncovered.
The February announcement from the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department — the external body that scrutinizes police misconduct — determined that while Salamsa’s death was not a result of criminal wrongdoing, several serious procedural errors in officers’ handling of Salamsa’s incarceration warranted disciplinary measures.
Salamsa was found dead in a quarry in the northern city of Binyamina in July 2014. Police determined he had committed suicide.
But Ethiopian-Israeli community activists said Salamsa was the victim of repeated abuse by officers, a factor that may have contributed to his suicide.
Salamsa was detained by police in nearby Zichron Yaakov in March 2014 and tased in the police station before he was released. He was never investigated or charged with any crime. After the incident, he fell into a deep depression and his family registered a complaint with the PIID.
In the wake of that complaint, according to his family, the offending police officers began to harass Salamsa.
Ultimately, the PIID closed the case, because Salamsa declined to file a complaint himself.
Ethiopian-Israelis have long accused the police of brutality and abuse against members of the community. Last year, the community staged a series of demonstrations across the country, triggered by video footage showing a seemingly unprovoked police assault on an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in April.
Thousands took to the streets demanding the government address the alleged systematic and institutionalized racism faced by the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Activists also expressed their frustration with what they said was the state’s shortcomings in addressing the quality of life of their community.
At a May 2015 protest in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, at least 41 people were injured in what devolved into an hours-long melee, which saw protesters hurl rocks at police and officers respond with stun grenades and water cannons.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.