Ethiopian Israelis Take to the Streets of Ashkelon to Protest Against Discrimination

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Ethiopian demonstrators in Ashkelon on Thursday.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Some 300 Israeli of Ethiopian descent held a demonstration in Ashkelon Thursday afternoon to protest against discrimination and racism.

The demonstrators, who included children and many youths, said that as native-born Israelis they feel discriminated against daily.

"Whenever I leave my home I take my ID card with me because police stop and harass me deliberately, even if I haven't done anything wrong," said Moshe Mahiri.

Sami Laku, who has lived in Ashkelon since he arrived from Ethiopia, said that he is scared for his children, who he said have already experienced police brutality.

"About a month ago, my son held a party to celebrate his joining the army. At about 11 P.M., the police arrived and began beating people. They took their ID cards and deleted pictures and videos from their phones. They open a criminal file for every young person and afterwards they can't do anything with their lives."

The demonstrators marched from an Ethiopian neighborhood in the city to the mayor's office and from there they headed to the Ashkelon police station.

"Our problem is not only the police, but also the municipalities, the welfare authorities – all the agencies that ignore us," one of the demonstrators said.

Referring to scheduled meetings between the police and Ethiopians, one of the Ashkelon organizers said that the Ethiopians chosen to participate in the meetings were from the establishment and did not represent the community.

"We are opposed to the established organizations because they are under the auspices of the state," said Gabriel Tagbu. "We are fighting for the children, not for the organizations."

A kernel of leaders representing all the Ethiopians in the country needed to be established, he added. "The community needs to decide who represents it, not the police," he said. "It needs to be a truly democratic process."

The protest went off peacefully and no incidents of violence were reported. A number of streets were closed for the duration of the march, which took place with the knowledge and approval of the police.

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