The family of an Ethiopian Israeli teen whose shooting death by an off-duty police officer sparked a wave of prortests across the country called Wednesday for demonstrations to be put on hold, as they enter their third day.
A friend of the 18-year-old Solomon Teka’s family said his father asked for protests to halt until the seven days of Jewish mourning, known as shiva, are over.
Although police warned earlier on Wednesday they would not allow roads blockages, demonstrators were attempting to disrupt traffic in a number of locations across Israel.
Seven people who were trying to block a road south of Tel Aviv, were forcibly removed by police and detained. One protester has been arrested in the northern city of Kiryat Ata, where about 100 people have gathered and begun marching toward the Zevulun police station. Five more people were detained for attempting to block access to a police station in Yavne.
Speaking at a meeting of ministers tasked with advancing the integration of the Ethiopian Israeli community Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu called on lawmakers to “exert their influence” and stop the violence immediately. “The death of Solomon Teka is a big tragedy, but we cannot tolerate this violence,” he said.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that police forces were bracing for heightened tensions after Tuesday night’s protest against police brutality and racism toward Jews of Ethiopian descent turned violent, with 136 arrests and 111 injured policemen. The arrests were for allegedly attacking policemen, vandalism, and gross disturbance of public order.
One protester’s remand was extended until Friday, for allegedly setting a car on fire in Tel Aviv. Another protester’s remand has been extended until 8:00 P.M. Wednesday for attempting to run over a police officer. A 24-year-old was arrested in Ashdod after he was caught on video lighting a border policeman’s uniform on fire. Police identified him and arrested him Wednesday.
Erdan also noted that police had information that some protesters were planning to arm themselves and try to shoot policemen during the upcoming protests.
The police announced that it will not allow protesters to block main roads on Wednesday, after roads were blocked throughout Israel on Tuesday evening, causing mass traffic jams. Magen David Adom stated that in the protests the night before, beyond the 111 officers who were hurt, 26 protesters were also injured, nine passers-by, and one firefighter. MDA also said that seven of its ambulances and four emergency first-aid motorbikes were damaged by rock-throwers.
Police employed means of riot control Tuesday, including tear gas and stun grenades, as protesters closed down main city arteries, burning tires and vandalizing cars. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that while he understands the frustration and suffering of tens of thousands, the police did what they had to do. Erdan also vowed that the violence would not recur, and that if necessary, police would defend themselves.
People were incited through social media, he said, boosting the violence to levels previously unknown, such as the throwing of a firebomb at a police station. He reiterated intense regret and sorrow over Teka’s death but added that the incident is not representative of change in the Israeli police in recent years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the “Ethiopian community is dear to us,” however the state is not prepared to tolerate blocking of roads or violence “including firebombs thrown toward our forces, the burning of cars or any other civilian property. We are a law-abiding nation. We demand that everyone respect the law.”
Netanyahu convened a committee of ministers Wednesday night to advance the integration of the Ethiopian community and discuss “excessive policing and the patterns of behavior toward of those of Ethiopian descent.” Netanyahu added, “we’ve already seen improvement in this area and it seems that we need to make many more improvements.”
In the northern city of Kiryat Ata, over a thousand marched on the Zevulun police station and smoke grenades were thrown into the station. Around 200 demonstrators in Afula blocked traffic on one of the northern city’s main streets. Meanwhile, major roads in several cities, including Tel Aviv and Haifa, were blocked by demonstrators burning tires.
President Reuven Rivlin called for restraint and dialogue: “The rage must not be expressed in violence,” he tweeted. “The handful who chose violence are not the face of the protest and must not become the face of the protest, which we very much understand.” Rivlin called for a meeting together with representatives of all the parties involved in public safety: “Only through open conversation, difficult as it is, can change be achieved.”
On Monday the police said that Teka may have been hit by a bullet ricocheting off the ground.