Two policeman were filmed tasing an Ethiopian Israeli man during what appears to be a routine arrest in central Israel on Thursday. Police were responding to a call about an altercation, reported Channel 2 television, which aired the footage Friday.
Police promised to investigate allegations of racism and violence in the wake of the incident in Ramle, south of Tel Aviv.
The video, filmed by a local resident, shows the two police officers escorting the suspect to their police car and apparently asking him to get inside. Seconds later, the man is tased and wrestled to the ground.
The video shows the man asking, “What did I do?” and then he can be heard screaming. A woman’s voice, presumably that of the person recording, then shouts “enough” at the police officers.
“I have no words,” Ethiopian Israeli activist Inbar Bolga said of the incident. “Its unacceptable that I’m afraid to walk around my own neighborhood out of fear I might see a cop who will beat me,” she told Channel 2.
Police said in a statement that the officers were responding to a call to break up a physical altercation between two neighbors, and asked the two to accompany them to the local police station in order to resolve the issue. One of the men, police said, refused to comply and was then arrested.
“The policemen told the man that he was under arrest, but he responded by going wild and began attacking the officers in an effort to prevent his arrest,” the statement said. “The police took legal measures at their disposal to arrest and prevent the escape of the suspect.”
Members of the Ethiopian Israeli community staged a series of demonstrations across the country earllier this year, 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 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.
With racial tensions at an all-time high, leaders from across the political spectrum pledged their commitment to eradicating racism, discrimination and police brutality in Israel. The Knesset also held a special session to examine the claims of racism on the state level.
On Friday, members of the Ethiopian Israeli community announced a fresh protest against racism and police brutality would be held outside the police headquarters in Jerusalem early next week.
“We are going to protest on Monday to send the message that we aren’t toys belonging to anyone, we are human beings just like the officers are,” Bolga said.
“Just because they wear a uniform and a badge does not make them above us or allow them to do whatever they feel like to civilians,” she added.
Bolga said the planned demonstration was also to protest the subsequent announcement that the officer who beat the Ethiopian Israeli soldier in April would not face criminal charges.
Israel is home to some 135,500 Israelis of Ethiopian descent, including more than 50,000 born inside the country.