Six held in Jerusalem protest against killing of autistic Palestinian man

In Jaffa, 300 demonstrators protesting against construction on an ancient Muslim burial site set cars and trash cans on fire, stone a bus, while police use stun grenades

Police arrest a woman during a protest against the killing of Iyad Halak in Jerusalem, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Police arrest a woman during a protest against the killing of Iyad Halak in Jerusalem, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Several dozen people protested against police violence in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Haifa on Tuesday following the deadly shooting of an autistic Palestinian man last month.

In Jaffa, a separate protest led by Muslim groups turned violent with police using force to disperse rioters who stoned a bus and set trash cans and cars on fire.

In Jerusalem, police said they arrested six people for blocking the city’s light rail line during the demonstration. Protesters chanted: “A violent cop needs to be in jail,” and held signs with the picture of Iyad Halak, the 32-year-old man with severe autism who was shot and killed by Israeli police in Jerusalem on May 30.

Similar protests were staged in Haifa and Jaffa, the latest in a series of demonstrations against police violence in Israel following Halak’s death.

Israel police confront women during a protest against the killing of Iyad Halak in Jerusalem, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Halak, was shot dead in Jerusalem’s Old City while he was on his way to his school for individuals with special needs. Police said he had appeared to be holding a gun, but Halak was only holding a cellphone — as his father told the media — and apparently had not understood officers’ orders to halt as he passed near the Lion’s Gate.

The shooting has drawn comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the US and prompted a series of small demonstrations against police violence toward Palestinians. Some Israeli figures have paid condolence visits to the grieving Halak family.

In Jaffa, the protest against Halak’s killing passed peacefully. However, there was violence at another demonstration held simultaneously to protest the construction of a homeless shelter on land where evidence was found that it used to be a Muslim burial site.

In that protest, some 300 people clashed with police. The Haaretz daily said violence started when police tried to disperse the demonstrators, using officers mounted on horses and stun grenades.

Some demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Allahu Akbar.” Demonstrators then started throwing stones and fireworks at the police. Several trash cans were set ablaze and the windows of a public bus were shattered.

Police said officers only intervened after the demonstrators attacked them.

“A large force, that was deployed at the site ahead of time, restored order after rioters used weapons against police and acted with uncontrolled violence against and passers bye,” police said.

“Demonstrators burned trash cans, tires and parked cars and stoned a bus traveling on Yefet Street causing serious damage,” police said.

There were no reports of injuries and one demonstrator was arrested.

Construction at the site began Monday after getting the go-ahead from the courts after a two-year effort by the local Muslim council to prevent construction on the site.

The Tel Aviv municipality has said that it was making efforts to ensure that no graves were disturbed.

Speaking earlier Tuesday while hosting a committee to address police treatment of special needs individuals, President Reuven Rivlin said the country “must do everything so that a terrible incident like this doesn’t repeat itself.” On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deadly police shooting of Halak a “tragedy.”

His caretaker, who witnessed the incident, told reporters that Halak had fled on foot and hid in a garbage room, where he was shot at least seven times.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court last week accepted a police request to bar the publication of minutes from a hearing on a petition filed by Halak’s family seeking the release of security camera footage showing him being shot by police.

Iyad Halak (Courtesy)

The family filed the petition and asked the judge to compel the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department to confirm whether it had collected the CCTV footage, saying they were concerned law enforcement would not use it in the probe of the May 30 incident.

The police officers involved in the incident gave conflicting accounts of the events, with a commander telling investigators he had urged his subordinate to cease fire, an order that was not followed, he said, according to reports in Hebrew media. The officer denied his commander’s account.

Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups have long accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force in some cases. Last summer, the killing of Ethiopian-Israeli teen Solomon Teka by police officer sparked widespread protests by the country’s Ethiopian community over its treatment by law enforcement.

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