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Stun grenades in Tel Aviv as Ethiopians protest police

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for calm after police in Tel Aviv subdued protests by hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis. Demonstrators had gathered to protest racist police treatment.

Police in Tel Aviv used a water cannon, stun grenades and, news stations reported, tear gas to disperse a rally that Israelis of Ethiopian descent had staged on Sunday to protest brutality and discrimination.

Some demonstrators hurled stones, bottles and chairs from nearby restaurants after attempting to storm the Tel Aviv municipality building.

"I've had enough of this behavior by the police," a woman told Israel's Channel 2.

The protest left about 20 officers and about as many protesters injured. Police made a number of arrests.

'Humiliated for years'

On April 26, a closed-circuit video camera in a Tel Aviv suburb captured police assaulting Damas Pakada, a uniformed soldier of Ethiopian descent. Police suspended two officers on suspicion of excessive force.

Community leaders have compared the incident to

police violence in the US

. After the video footage went public, police suspended one officer in the video and pledged a crackdown on those members of the force who have used violence against the Ethiopian community.

"Our parents were humiliated for years," a woman told Channel 10 on Sunday. "We are not prepared to wait any longer to be recognized as equal citizens. It may
take a few months, but it will happen."

Taking time from

final coalition negotiations

Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet Ethiopian activists and the soldier on Monday. "All claims will be looked into, but there is no place for violence and such disturbances," he said in a statement.

Ethiopians make up about 135,000 of Israel's 8 million people after mass airlifts into the country during the 1980s and '90s following a rabbinical ruling that they had descended from a biblical tribe. Complaints of racism by the minority group seem to bear out. Households earn 35 percent less than the national average, with a high school graduation rate of 50 percent, compared with 63 percent for the rest of the population.

At a protest in Jerusalem on Thursday, police used a water cannon to keep crowds away from Netanyahu's residence, injuring at least 13 people.

mkg/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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