Some 400 people marched on Tuesday in Haifa to protest racism and discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis. The march, from Gan Haem to Kikar Sefer at the top of Mount Carmel, was accompanied by a large police presence and was peaceful. People carried signs, among them some that read “today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you,” “being black is not a crime” and called for police who act violently to be put in prison.
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Guy Shamir, one of the organizers of the march, said its purpose was to redress “the trauma of last week,” referring to a demonstration against racism in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square that turned violent. “The freedom to demonstrate has declined in recent years, we understand from the [Ethiopian] community that they are afraid to ask for permits to demonstrate, afraid to demonstrate, and we are giving them backing here,” Shamir said.
Haifa resident Avishai Adaneh, 32, who came to Israel from Ethiopia when he was 2 years old, said: “I’ve been suffering from police racism for 30 years and every place in the Israeli establishment. We just want equality. We are all human beings.”
Rivka Abara, 28, from Haifa, held a sign that read: “I am black and beautiful,” a verse from the biblical Song of Songs. According to Abara, the protest was meant to raise awareness in the Israeli public. “The Israeli public is very varied, but there is disregard. We suffer from latent racism,” she said. Her generation is different from her parents’ who were silent in the face of discrimination, Abara added.
On Tuesday night Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said the police were conducting a “fertile dialogue” with members of the Ethiopian community. Speaking at graduation ceremony for boarding school students who had completed a course in police studies, Danino said the police held special seminars focusing on cultural various communities, and during such seminars the police received “insights regarding the places where there is room to improve the police conduct, inviting constructive criticism with the goal of improving.”
Representatives of the Ethiopian community held a press conference Sunday in which they demanded the immediate closure of files opened against demonstrators at the Rabin Square protest. The representatives also criticized Danino for what they said was his disregard for them.