Dozens of far-right activists rioted in Jerusalem on Saturday night over the case of Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old who was killed in a car crash last year while fleeing from police, allegedly after throwing rocks at Palestinians.
Four police officers were injured as demonstrators hurled bottles and stones and used pepper spray against them, according to the Israel Police. Two police cars were damaged.
Police said 21 protesters were arrested over the violence at the Chords Bridge, near the entrance to the city. Demonstrators also disrupted traffic in the area, according to police.
Sandak’s death has sparked clashes between police and protesters over the past year, with the protesters claiming police were responsible for his death and demanding legal action.
A similar protest was held Friday at the same location. During that protest, demonstrators hurled rocks and other objects at responding officers, smashed a police vehicle’s windows and injured at least one officer. Police forcibly cleared the demonstrators from the intersection at the entrance to the city. At least 10 protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct and for assaulting police officers, including Sandak’s fiancee, Shalhevet Goldstein, according to Hebrew media reports.
The far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir of the Religious Zionism party appeared in support of the protesters on Friday.
“I heard they’re beating boys and girls with violence. I came here so the police will stop. I hope it calms down,” Ben Gvir said to applause from the protesters.
Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich said at that protest, “These violent police officers need to take off their uniforms and go to prison immediately.”
The far-right legal aid organization Honenu, which is representing those detained, said that police used excessive force, including by firing a water cannon at a girl who was protesting on the street on Friday.
Honenu documented intense clashes between police and protesters, including an officer photographed beating a demonstrator with a baton.
Sandak’s family recently appealed to the state attorney’s office with a request to expedite the investigation into his death. The letter, sent through Honenu, details the family’s hardships and what it claims are holes in the police’s defense.
Sandak, a resident of the Bat Ayin settlement, was fleeing Border Police in a car with three other so-called hilltop youth on December 21, 2020, when the car flipped over, killing him. According to police, Sandak’s group fled from police before losing control of their vehicle. Sandak’s defenders view his death as a police killing; they allege that the police car hit his vehicle from behind, causing it to run off the road.
Sandak’s death ignited weeks of near-nightly protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Demonstrators threw stones, attacked buses, and blocked major thoroughfares. In turn, police responded forcefully, including apparently beating a protester in one widely circulated clip.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has questioned the officers involved in the incident, but they are seen as unlikely to face criminal charges.