Two and a half months after protests by Israelis of Ethiopian descent began near the Tel Aviv home of Justice Minister Amir Ohana, police have decided to impose restrictions against the demonstrators.
From now on, only a quiet demonstration with up to five demonstrators, at a distance of about 150 meters from the minister’s home, will be permitted. At a distance of about 400 meters from Ohana’s home, demonstrations will be permitted with loudspeakers, with an unlimited number of protesters.
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As opposed to the decision regarding demonstrations near the home of the attorney general, demonstrations will be permitted every day near Ohana’s home.
The protests stem from the police’s handling of the July 30 killing of Solomon Teka, 18, by an off-duty policeman, which sparked days of rioting by Israelis of Ethiopian descent.
Police didn’t announce the restrictions formally. They were revealed by their response to a petition by Ohana’s neighbors to the High Court of Justice, against the Tel Aviv police district.
After the new restrictions, the petition was withdrawn with the consent of both parties. Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Amit said, “I assume that we’ll meet here in a week or two when the other side submits a petition, so I’m not sure this is the end of the story.”
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In response to the restrictions, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: “The position of the police totally contradicts its job of protecting freedom of expression and enabling every citizen to implement his or her democratic right. Instead of strengthening the right to demonstrate, the police choose to give in to pressure, thereby silencing freedom to protest.”
In recent weeks the police started to limit the protest near Ohana’s house and arrested several demonstrators. One of the prominent activists, Sissat Fanta, was arrested on Tuesday after ambushing Ohana with another demonstrator near his house, and shouting through a megaphone at the minister’s partner and children.
Police accused him of attempted assault, threatening harassment and disturbing the public order. Magistrate’s Court Judge Alaa Masrawa, ruling on Fanta’s release, watched the video and said: “I’ve reached the conclusion that it is doubtful that the evidentiary basis, which is not in dispute, is a criminal offense,” and released him without conditions.
The police appealed the decision, but District Court Judge Raanan Ben Yosef rejected the appeal and recommended that police stop employing criminal procedures against the demonstrators, instead switching to the civil procedure of issuing a restraining order. He said he had found no suspicion that the respondent constituted a danger.