(January 31, 2019 / JNS) Approximately 1,000 protesters, primarily Ethiopian Israelis, blocked the Ayalon Highway and streamed into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest police brutality on Wednesday, causing massive traffic delays and backups throughout the area.
The protest was ignited by the killing of a 24-year-old Ethiopian Israeli who was shot dead by police after waving a knife at officers. The killing of Yehuda Biadga two weeks ago sparked controversy, as some witnesses said he did not pose an immediate threat to the lives of the officers.
Police said the Biadga was a threat, and that race played no part in the decision to shoot. The incident is under investigation.
In an unprecedented move, the popular Azrieli mall was completely shut down as the protest began, allegedly on orders of the police. Protesters carried signs reading “Police are killing Beta Israel” and “police state.”
Several dozens of protesters wearing masks began engaging in violence, including throwing chairs, overturning tables and engaging in vandalism along the route.
Six officers were lightly injured, and 11 protesters were arrested.
The protest was also attended by the family of Yosef Salamsa, an Ethiopian Israeli who allegedly committed suicide after being tasered by police in 2014.
Last week, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered police to wear body cameras in the Tel Aviv area.
The last major demonstration by the Ethiopian community against police brutality took place in 2015. It turned violent, ending with 41 people being injured in street brawls, and police turning stun grenades and water cannons on the crowd.