Police Official Says Non-Ethiopian Groups Turned Protest Violent

May 4, 2015  

The head of the police operations branch, Maj. Gen. Aharon Aksul, told Walla! on Monday that police showed great restraint facing the protest by Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday night which turned violent.

The protest ended with 43 arrests, as 55 officers and 12 protesters were wounded, with some protesters telling the media that external groups had sparked the violence which the Ethiopian Jews originally had no intention of engaging in.

Speaking on Monday ahead of an additional protest in Jerusalem, Aksul said, “unfortunately there’s a handful in every protest that fans violence, additional groups that are not related to the Ethiopian community joined them and took it in their direction. Most members of the (Ethiopian) community are not violent and we must not let a handful of hooligans lead this protest.”

The current spate of protests has broken out following the assault of Damas Pakada, an Ethiopian Jewish soldier who was brutally assaulted by a police officer in Holon last Sunday. That incident raised complaints of repeated discrimination by the police.

“Not all of the thousands who came rioted. Also the use of force by officers was done after officers were wounded. The people who rioted came to clash with the government and the officers. We have hundreds of Ethiopian officers who are excellent. We will continue to take in and embrace the community,” added Aksul.

The police official said, “if we had used our more massive means, the protest would have looked different. The protest was illegal, essentially we could have disperse it from the moment it started. The Israeli police showed restraint, but unfortunately there were those who manipulated that…iron locks and rocks were thrown in the square, and the Israel police couldn’t restrain. At that point every line was crossed, and the police were forced to work.”

Aksul said Ethiopian Jews enjoy full freedoms, saying “any protester who thinks unreasonable violence was used against him can go to the police investigation unit and complain.”

He said that the protest control measures used “were our lowest level. Does the fact that 60 officers are in hospitals indicate violence by officers?”

Remarking on a project for endangered youth that police are taking part in, Aksul described how meetings are being held with Ethiopian youth in danger, their criminal files are erased and they are enlisted to the IDF to try and turn their lives around.

Another day of protests

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to meet with leaders of the Ethiopian Jewish community as well as the soldier Pakada on Monday, an additional protest is planned in front of Jerusalem’s governmental compound on Monday.

The protest didn’t receive a permit from police, who are stepping up preparations to be able to cope with the demonstration.

In a statement, the police said: “every protest must be conducted according to the law by organizing the event with full coordination between the organizers of the protest and police sources.”

“The Jerusalem police will allow protests within the limitations of public order and the law, and emphasizes that if the protest strays into the forbidden, the police will be forced to disperse the protest by using (dispersal) means.”

“The Jerusalem police call on the leadership of the (Ethiopian) community and those participating to show restraint, responsibility and to listen to the orders of the officers,” it added.

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