Demonstrators in Tel Aviv blocked a major highway and other main intersections on roads around the country, protesting systematic discrimination by police toward the community

A masked Israeli member of the Ethiopian community runs past a burning barrier blocking the main entrance to Jerusalem on July 02, 2019
A masked Israeli member of the Ethiopian community runs past a burning barrier blocking the main entrance to Jerusalem on July 02, 2019 (AFP)

Hundreds of Israelis protested Tuesday against alleged police brutality toward Ethiopian Israelis across the country after police shot dead an Ethiopian Israeli teen.

Demonstrators blocked a major highway in central Tel Aviv, and other main intersections on roads around the country. Protesters burned tires and held signs calling for justice. Police said officers arrested 19 people believed involved in disturbances during the protests.

The protesters, led by activists from the country's Ethiopian minority, demonstrated against systematic discrimination by police toward the community after an off-duty officer shot and killed Solomon Teka, an 18-year-old Ethiopian Israeli, in a Haifa suburb on Sunday.

Thousands attended Teka's funeral Tuesday. Police said the officer was arrested and was placed in protective custody by court order.

Ethiopian Israeli lawmakers and protesters, and Teka's family have demanded that the involved officer be held accountable.

"I hope that he will be the last victim," David Teka, Solomon's father, said at the funeral. "We demand that the murderer receive what he deserves and justice is done."

Ethiopian Jews began arriving in large numbers in the 1970s and many were airlifted to Israel in clandestine operations in the 1980s and '90s during periods of unrest.
Today, the Ethiopian community is estimated at approximately 150,000, or around 2 percent of the country's population, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

While some of its members have made strides in certain fields, many Ethiopian Israelis struggle with racism, lack of opportunities, endemic poverty and routine police harassment.

That frustration turned to public outcry and mass protests in 2015 after a police officer was filmed beating a uniformed Ethiopian Israeli soldier, and there have been sporadic demonstrations since.

Protesters say that in multiple instances of perceived police brutality, officers were not properly held accountable.

"What you see here is the frustration of an entire community that for 40 years is suffering discrimination," a protester who identified himself only as Hanan told Kan, Israel's public television.

Source: AP