NEW: 57 officers, 12 protesters injured at Tel Aviv demonstration, police say
Anger in Israel's Ethiopian Jewish community reached a boiling point after viral video
A protest in Tel Aviv over alleged police mistreatment of Ethiopian Jews turned violent Sunday, resulting in 57 officers being injured, according to Israeli police.
Most of those injuries were minor, according to police, but one officer was described to be “moderately injured.” Police say 12 protestors were injured. The extent of those injuries is not known.
The planned demonstration by the Ethiopian Jewish community – incensed over a video gone viral that shows a uniformed Israel Defense Forces soldier of Ethiopian descent being assaulted by police – had been peaceful for hours before things took a violent turn.
Authorities employed horses, water cannons and smoke to disperse the crowd in Rabin Square, where demonstrators had been chanting slogans such as “a violent cop should be in jail.”
Forty-three protesters were arrested, according to Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri.
The Tel Aviv protest comes on the heels of a largely peaceful demonstration in Jerusalem on Thursday that drew more than 1,000 people.
Video sparked protest
The videotaped episode from April 26 was a tipping point for Ethiopian Jews, some 125,000 strong, who say they have long felt like second-class citizens since arriving in two waves of mass immigration in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The video shows the soldier, Damas Pakada, standing and holding a bicycle’s handle bars when an officer approaches him and appears to forcefully turn him and the bike around toward the opposite direction. There is no sound, so it’s unclear what either party said, but things escalated quickly. The officer charges and takes several swings, knocking Pakada to the ground. A second officer comes to assist before the soldier manages to break free.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying that “all claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances.”
Netanyahu will meet with Pakada on Monday, as well as with leaders in the Ethiopian community, according to the statement.
One of the policemen in the video has since been fired, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
CNN’s Oren Liebermann reported from Tel Aviv, and CNN’s Kevin Conlon wrote from Atlanta.