Hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis turned out in Tel Aviv Wednesday night in protest of police brutality and their mistreatment in Israeli society. Tel Aviv police geared up for a large and possibly violent demonstration by members of the Ethiopian community; however clashes to this point have been limited.
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Protesters briefly blocked Menachem Begin Road, a major Tel Aviv thoroughfare, and five protesters were arrested by the Azrieli Towers. Police initially estimated that thousands would attend the demonstration, but the turnout peaked at the hundreds. Tens of people remained toward the end of the protest, attempting to block the HaShalom Interchange.
The demonstration, which does not have a permit, is expected to be dominated by young Ethiopian radicals who are interested in escalating the situation following what they regard as the failure of their previous protest, according to police sources.
The police said "militant" intentions have been identified by its intelligence unit among some extremists, a spokeswoman said, adding that they plan to block main roads and disturb the peace.
Social media posts in advance of the demonstration have reportedly called for violence against residents and property in order to gain attention. Some have called for rocks to be thrown at the police.
"In recent days, social media posts have called for a demonstration in Tel Aviv," the police said in a statement. "Until now, the organizers have not applied for a permit, as required by law."
Police say that their attempts to communicate with the organizers have been rebuffed.
"We wish to stress that the purpose of applying for a permit is to ensure the safety of the public," police spokeswoman Hila Hemo said. "The role of the police is to find a balance between the right to demonstrate and any possible danger to public order."
The organizers of the demonstration have been informed that they will not be able to gather in Rabin Square, where the Book Week exhibition is currently being held, Hemo said.
"We have asked the organizers to postpone the demonstration for a few days but have not received a response," Hemo added. "I emphasize that the planned demonstration is illegal and the meaning of that is clear."
Dozens of people, including bystanders and police, were injured in a violent demonstration by members of the Ethiopian community at Rabin Square in early May.