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Israel: Tel Aviv police crack down on angry protest

Ethiopian-origin Jews vent anger over racism

by Our Foreign Desk

TEL AVIV police fired stun grenades on Sunday to disperse a 10,000-strong rally by Israelis of Ethiopian origin demonstrating against police brutality and widespread discrimination.

Mounted police also used water cannon and pepper spray in several failed attempts to disperse the furious protesters and clear nearby streets.

A spokesman said that 46 officers and seven demonstrators had been wounded in the clashes and at least 40 protesters had been arrested.

On Thursday, a stormy demonstration in Jerusalem was sparked by footage showing two police officers beating a black Israeli soldier.

When senior officers saw the video, IDF soldier Damas Pakada was released without charge and both policemen in the video were suspended.

One officer has now been sacked.

Hundreds of other Israelis joined Sunday’s rally, chanting and holding up signs reading: “A violent policeman must be put in prison, we demand equal rights” and “There is no white. There is no black. There are just people.”

As they marched, they held their arms aloft with their wrists crossed as if handcuffed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying that he would meet Mr Pakada and other representatives of the Ethiopian community yesterday.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett met protesters at the scene of the clashes and said that Israeli society faced “serious soul-searching.”

He added: “While the law must be kept, we must all seek the real solutions for the problems that have surfaced in such a painful way.”

After the video footage went public, police pledged a crackdown on any members of the force who had used violence against the Ethiopian community.

More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, having arrived in two waves in 1984 and 1991.

But they have struggled to integrate, despite government aid.

Ethiopian households still earn 35 per cent less than the national average and only half of the community’s young people receive secondary school diplomas, compared with 63 per cent for the rest of the population.

Officials said that about 20 per cent of the minors held in juvenile prisons in Israel are of Ethiopian descent.

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