TEL AVIV (JTA) – A demonstration in Tel Aviv by thousands protesting police brutality against Ethiopian-Israelis degenerated into violence.
As evening fell on Sunday, protesters in Rabin Square threw bottles at mounted police and clashed with officers. At least 41 police officers and demonstrators were injured; several protesters were detained by police.
Police used anti-riot measures including stun grenades, water cannons and tear gas to halt the violence. Protesters overturned a police car, sparking a fire, according to reports.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call Sunday evening for calm and the restoration of order.
“All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances,” he said in a statement.
The rioting began hours after what started as a peaceful rally.
Chanting “Every violent policeman needs to be put away” and “Whether black or white, we’re all people,” the Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters launched their protest in the afternoon at the Azrieli Center, a central mall and office complex. They then filled the adjacent major intersection, blocking traffic, before moving on to Route 2 and the Ayalon highway, two major roads.
The rally followed a Thursday night demonstration in Jerusalem that also turned violent. Separate beatings of two Ethiopian-Israelis by Israeli law enforcement, both filmed, spurred the protests. One of the victims is a soldier.
At Sunday’s demonstration, the protesters held signs reading “Being black is not a crime” and “We demand a fair and just society.” Some waved Israeli flags. Throughout the protest, people crossed their hands above their heads, as if being arrested.
Several Israeli lawmakers joined the demonstrators, including Arab Joint List head Ayman Odeh and party member Dov Khenin, as well as Stav Shaffir of the Zionist Union Party and former Yesh Atid lawmaker Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first female Ethiopian lawmaker.
Earlier Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sent a message to American citizens in Israel to avoid the area of the demonstration due to the violent nature of the Jerusalem rally.
“This demonstration has the potential of drawing large crowds. A similar protest held in Jerusalem on Thursday lasted several hours and turned violent, resulting in injuries, arrests, and property damage. We advise US citizens to avoid the area and to monitor local media for updates,” the embassy message said.
The rally came as the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu will convene a discussion with Ethiopian community representatives and planned a meeting with Damas Pakada, the soldier who was filmed being beaten last week by two policemen.
Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and representatives of several government ministries and the Union of Local Authorities are also scheduled to attend the meeting.