Police Failed to Prepare for Ethiopian Israeli Protest, Officers Say

Around 1,000 Israelis of Ethiopian descent demonstrated against police brutality Thursday; officers tell Channel 10 that forces were not ready for the demonstration, which go out of hand.

Protesters clash with police officers during a protest
Protesters clash with police officers during a protest against police brutality toward Ethiopians in Jerusalem, April 30, 2015. Lior Mizrahi

The Israel Police did not sufficiently prepare for a protest by Israelis of Ethiopian descent that got out of hand Thursday, officers told Channel 10.

Just over 1,000 people demonstrated in Jerusalem on Thursday in response to a video showing police assaulting an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent in Holon, a Tel Aviv suburb.

In the video, a policeman is seen pushing the soldier, Demas Fekadeh, to the ground after he did not initially move at the officer’s request. (Police were trying to clear the area due to a suspicious object.) Another policeman is then seen pummeling Fekadeh.

The protest spiraled into violence, with stones, bottles and, by some accounts, firebombs thrown at police. There were few injuries, however, and only two arrests.

Officers told Channel 10 that the police had no intelligence on the planned protest and did not make the necessary preparations to handle it, even though the organizers had made their intentions clear on social media.

On Friday, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino praised the Jerusalem police’s handling of the demonstration.

Meanwhile, Channel 2 reported that Danino planned to review cases and indictments against Israelis of Ethiopian descent. According to Channel 2, a special team of police representatives and Ethiopian-community leaders has been set up to help with the process. The police spokesman’s unit told Haaretz it did not know the details to any program.

Under the plan, representatives of the Ethiopian community would provide the police with a list of cases in which police conduct was seen as flawed, Channel 2  reported. Cases and indictments would also be canceled when there was discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent.