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17 arrested as Ethiopian Israelis protest cop’s clearing

Fights between police and demonstrators break out in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, streets blocked in response to dropped charges against policeman who beat soldier

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ethiopians of Israeli descent protest  police brutality and their mistreatment in Israeli society, Tel Aviv, June 3, 2015. (Flash90)
Ethiopians of Israeli descent protest police brutality and their mistreatment in Israeli society, Tel Aviv, June 3, 2015. (Flash90)

Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Monday against the closure of an investigation against a policeman who was videotaped beating a uniformed Ethiopian-Israeli soldier.

Seventeen protesters were arrested after clashes broke out between demonstrators and some of the 700 policemen stationed near Rabin Square in the center of the city, in a repeat of a violent melee that erupted between Ethiopian-Israeli protesters and police almost two months ago.

Scenes on TV showed riot police pushing into crowds of people, and several arrests being made.

The protest came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to end the investigation earlier this month against a police officer who was filmed beating Israel Defense Forces soldier Damas Pakada in April.

Weinstein made his decision on the grounds that it was the soldier who had provoked the clash, and the attorney general also cleared the officer of any racist motive for his actions.

Earlier Monday, around 350 protesters blocked Kaplan Street, a main artery in the city. One man was arrested as police battled to prevent the demonstrators from blocking additional streets in the area.

Exit ramps from the Ayalon Highway leading to the Hashalom Junction were also briefly blocked.

The video clip of Pakada being beaten sparked a wave of protests from members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community and revived long-dormant accusations of ongoing institutional racism.

The protest was the most violent episode since a May 3 protest, also at Rabin Square, which saw Tel Aviv briefly transferred into a war zone, as police and protesters held running battles.

At least 41 people were injured in the hours-long melee, which saw protesters hurl rocks at police and officers respond with stun grenades and water cannons.

Following that protest, Pakada met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, who apologized on behalf of the police for the attack against him and vowed to combat racism.

Weinstein said the police officer who assaulted Pakada wouldn’t be charged and his case would be left in the hands of the Israel Police disciplinary board. The policeman was suspended from the force shortly after the April 27 incident.

Pakada’s lawyer said the AG’s decision to drop the charges was “bizarre” and “full of internal contradictions,” and vowed to appeal.

Weinstein’s decision came after both the state prosecutor and the Police Internal Investigations Department recommended that charges against the policeman be dropped.

Last month, Pakada filed a lawsuit at the Tel Aviv magistrate’s court against the Israel Police “and its institutionalized racism and violence” and sued for NIS 390,000 ($100,000) in damages and compensation for legal fees.

The officer has said he was just doing his job and rebuffed charges of racism.

 

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