After Claims of Police Brutality, Israeli Police 'Expect City to Maintain Public Order'

In an unusual letter, police say the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm will be held accountable for any 'nuisances,' ahead of a weekly rally protesting gun violence. Last week's demonstration ended with several wounded

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A protest against police brutality in Umm el-Fahm, last month.
A protest against police brutality in Umm el-Fahm, last month. Credit: Rami Shllush

The police sent a letter on Thursday to the mayor of Umm el-Fahm, saying the Arab city will be held accountable for any disorder during a demonstration slated for Friday to protest the authorities’ response to gun violence in Arab society. 

This comes after several protesters were wounded, with one of them sustaining serious injuries in last week's rally as police clashed with demonstrators. Eight police officers were also injured. A stun grenade fired by the police wounded Joint List Knesset member Yousef Jabareen, a resident of Umm al-Fahm, and Mayor Samir Mahamid.  

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In footage of the demonstration, Mahamid is seen confronting officers and accused them of unprovoked aggression.

"We expect the local authority to maintain public order, follow coronavirus restrictions and be responsible for sanitation during the demonstration," the police said in the letter to Mahamid. Such requirements are never presented before local municipalities as a condition to hold demonstrations.  

The letter was signed by Amira Bernstein, legal adviser to the coastal district police.

The letter added that “The police are preparing to ensure that the protest may be held. At the same time the local authority bears the responsibility for taking care of the matters under its jurisdiction and ensuring that the protest is conducted in accordance with the law. We also expect the local authority to allocate parking spaces for the protesters and hire ushers."

"It's the authority's duty to protect public property, government institutions, as well as prevent acts of vandalism, noise and other nuisances," the letter added.

Mahamid replied that he rejects “the attempt to place responsibilities on the city that are not under its purview and which it is not capable of undertaking.”

In addition, a number of municipality sources sharply criticized the letter. “Instead of lecturing us, they better start handling the violence in the Arab community," one source said.

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