Activists say arrests at progressive Tel Aviv cafe politically motivated
Video shows officers violently manhandling two female workers at the Albi Cafe in south Tel Aviv; police say that the cafe was open past legal hours, employees say they were just cleaning the premises.
The Tel Aviv District Police on Monday deployed a large police force to arrest two female workers at the Albi Cafe in the south of the city who municipal inspectors suspected were keeping the business open past legally permitted hours.
The forces raided the cafe just after the district headquarters released an announcement about a separate case, of dangerous felon who had escaped with a gun after firing at two people in the city center. Nevertheless, a number of officers were dispatched to Hagdud Ha'ivri Street to deal with the business infraction.
Witnesses in the area when the raid occurred just after midnight said the place had already closed for the night and that the two workers had stayed to clean the premises.
Then inspectors arrived and saw the two female employees inside the cafe. The witnesses, members of Women in Yellow (a women's self-defense group), were gathered outside and noticed the inspectors trying to enter the cafe.
The workers refused to open the door to the inspectors who wanted to report them for infraction, maintaining that the cafe was closed and not in operation.
The inspectors summoned the police, and large forces came to the cafe along with numerous police vehicles. Those present claimed that the policemen threatened the workers that if they didn't open the door the police would break it and enter forcibly. At this point the workers agreed to open the door and tried to explain to the police that the place was closed and therefore they refused to accept any charges.
The police demanded that the women present IDs, but they refused. The officers then handcuffed and detained them at about 3 A.M. The entire incident was recorded in a video clip posted on the Internet by onlookers, and clearly shows the large number of police officers at the site.
The women's attorney, Gaby Lasky, told Haaretz that the operation was a blatant attack against preogressive political activists.
"For a long time, police behavior has been designed to undermine the activity of feminists and other activists in the city center," he said. "It happened in my sister's house, and now here, when without any reason the police detain citizens illegally. Instead of maintaining public order the police choose to terrorize citizens. These are bizarre pictures and one can clearly see that there is no reason for the detention — these are false claims by the police."
This is the second incident of its kind to occur at the Albi Cafe: Two weeks ago, Ben Dayan was detained when she refused to identify herself to a policeman who called her "a retarded leftist." The commander of the Border Police decided to remove the officer in question from duty due to racist remarks that he posted on his Facebook page.
A police source explained the arrests as such: "An examination of the incident at the Albi Cafe indicates that complaints were lodged citizens about noise coming from the cafe. The municipal inspector who arrived there asked the worker at the site to stop the noise and to identify herself; she refused and the inspector summoned police assistance. Another police cruiser arrived with an inspector and an officer. The policeman entered the cafe and explained to the girl that she had to identify herself, but she continued to refuse. Another woman exploited the situation and locked the cafe. The inspector who remained outside dispatched that an officer had entered the cade, and police cruisers were sent to the spot."
The police sources said thet owed no apology for the arrests: "These were the same women who have been involved in many incidents in recent years," the sources said.