Ethiopian-Israeli community organizers on Saturday night announced they would restart demonstrations against racism and police violence, after widespread protests rocked the country last week in the wake of the police shooting of a 19-year-old.
An off-duty police officer shot to death Solomon Tekah in Haifa on June 30, setting off protests across the country which sometimes included violence and destruction of property.
Protests had faded on Wednesday after Tekah’s family asked that demonstrations be paused until after the seven-day Jewish mourning period, which ends Sunday. The family had asked that protests be kept non-violent and said an official memorial ceremony would be planned.
On Saturday, community leaders held a meeting and decided to resume the demonstrations starting Monday, Channel 12 news reported.
A protest is planned for Monday at the Azrieli intersection in Tel Aviv, the scene of some of the worst violence last week.
“We are going out so that there won’t be another Solomon Tekah. We understand the family’s request, but this protest isn’t about Solomon Tekah, it’s about the next Solomon Tekah,” organizers said according to the report.
On Monday, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they say is systemic discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community. The demonstrations escalated after Tekah’s funeral Tuesday, when some protesters set vehicles on fire, overturned a police car and clashed with officers and others who tried to break through their makeshift roadblocks.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Friday condemned the “intolerable” violence by some demonstrators, but said the past days’ protests were “an explosion of pain and rage by teens and many young people who truly feel that they have no future here, and that they are judged by the color of their skin.”
Community organizers say government reforms meant to address systematic racism and police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis have yet to be implemented, over three years after promises were made following similar protests.
Convening a ministerial panel on Wednesday created after the 2015 protests meant to address complaints in the Ethiopian community, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tekah’s death was a tragedy, but violence would not be tolerated.
“We cannot see the violent blocking of roads. We cannot see firebombs, and attacks on police officers, citizens and private property. This is inconceivable and the police are deployed accordingly to prevent this,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
On Friday Channel 13 news reported that Justice Ministry officials investigating the conduct of the police officer were leaning toward charging him with a disciplinary offense only.
Previous reports had indicated that the probe by the Police Internal Investigations Department seems to corroborate the officer’s claim that he did not aim at the Ethiopian youth but rather fired at the ground, with the bullet ricocheting upward and striking Tekah.
However, in a statement carried by Channel 13 Saturday night, Tekah’s parents Worka and Wbjig Tekah slammed what they said were “leaks meant to distract the public conversation from the main issue — an Israeli youth of Ethiopian descent, unarmed, shot to death by a cop.”
The officer, who was off duty at the time of the June 30 incident in Haifa, has claimed he was trying to break up a street fight he came across but was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life.
On Thursday, the lawyer for the officer, who is under house arrest and heavily guarded for fear of reprisals, said he had acted in self defense.