Police chief: Ethiopian-Israeli protesters took advantage of cops’ restraint
search

Police chief: Ethiopian-Israeli protesters took advantage of cops’ restraint

Commissioner says police wanted to allow protesters to legitimately demonstrate over teen’s killing by officer; Erdan: Violent officers shouldn’t remain on the force

A member of the Ethiopian community of Israel is arrested by the police during clashes in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on July 2, 2019, during a protest against the killing of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin, who was killed by an off-duty police officer.  (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
A member of the Ethiopian community of Israel is arrested by the police during clashes in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on July 2, 2019, during a protest against the killing of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin, who was killed by an off-duty police officer. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The acting Israel Police chief, Commissioner Motti Cohen, said Tuesday that police acted with restraint during last week’s protests over the killing of an Ethiopian-Israeli by an off-duty police officer, and were “taken advantage” by activists who carried out acts of violence.

“During the recent protests, and especially last week, we witnessed the exploitation of our desire as a police force to allow legitimate protest, and some of the public acted violently against civilians and police in serious disturbances,” Cohen said at a handover ceremony for the Northern Command police chief.

Cohen added that officers were dealing with “a significant challenge of maintaining the balance between allowing the expression of legitimate protest and enforcing the violation of law and order.”

Last week’s protests were sparked when an off-duty police officer shot to death 19-year-old Solomon Tekah in Haifa on June 30.

Israel Police Dep. Commissioner Motti Cohen at a police ceremony marking the Jewish New Year at Israel Police headquarters in Jerusalem on September 5, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The demonstrations escalated after Tekah’s funeral last Tuesday, when some protesters set vehicles on fire, overturned police cruisers and clashed with officers and others who tried to break through their makeshift roadblocks.

Community organizers say government reforms meant to address racism and police brutality against Ethiopian-Israelis have yet to be implemented, over three years after promises were made following similar protests.

Cohen also said the officer who shot Tekah must be afforded the presumption of innocence.

“Israeli police officers are often required to act under extreme conditions, and sometimes they are required to deal with complex situations, to exercise quick judgment and to make weighty decisions,” he said. “It is our duty to remember that every citizen and every police officer has the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise by law, even in this unfortunate and tragic event.”

A car is seen on fire after its driver was attacked during a protest following the death of 19-year-old Ethiopian, Solomon Tekah who was shot and killed few days ago in Kiryat Haim by an off-duty police officer, in Tel Aviv, July 2, 2019. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department confirmed Monday that a probe into the death of Tekah had concluded the officer fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into the teenager.

Worka and Wbjig Tekah hold a picture of their son Solomon Tekah, 19, who was killed by an off duty police officer on July 1, 2019, at their home in the Israeli city of Haifa on July 3, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

The officer, who has not been named, claims 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.

Officials are said to be leaning toward charging the man with a disciplinary offense only and not manslaughter.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, whose portfolio covers the police force, spoke at the same ceremony as Cohen on Tuesday, saying that while he supports the police, there should “zero tolerance for excessive violence by police.”

Erdan added: “A violent police officer who does not know how to show restraint cannot stay in the police.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan consoles the family of Solomon Tekah, 19, who was shot dead by an off-duty police officer, sparking riots, July 4, 2019 (courtesy)

Ethiopian Jews, who trace their lineage to the ancient Israelite tribe of Dan, began arriving in large numbers in the 1980s, when Israel secretly airlifted them to the Holy Land to save them from war and famine in the Horn of Africa.

read more:
less
comments
more