A city-wide strike is set to take place in the northern Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm in condemnation of the "exaggerated violence" directed at protestors by the police. The protestors pelted stones at right-wing activists that stormed the town on Wednesday morning, and torched tires.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee called for the strike. The committee is demanding that the president and prime minister set up an investigation committee to look into the violent events. It also announced that it intends file an official complaint with the Police Internal Investigations Department.
"What happened today was a very dangerous occurrence," said Mohammed Zeidan, chairman of the committee. "This wasn't a Marzel incident; it was an attack by security forces who came to the city with the intent of attacking us."
Police forces confront protestors (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Approximately 25 radical right-wing activists rallied in Umm al-Fahm and called for the Islamic Movement to be outlawed. A few dozen protestors, including Knesset members, Arab leaders, city residents and peace activists gathered to oppose them. The demonstration was secured by 1,300 police officers, hundreds of whom formed a barrier between the two groups.
The police began firing stun grenades and tear gas at the protestors minutes after the arrival of the right-wing activists. Zeidan claimed that these actions were premeditated and intentional.
"They planted undercover officers among us who threw stones in order to attack," he said. "Their decision was clear from the beginning, even though they knew there were Knesset members in the crowd."
'New era of racism'
According to Zeidan, the police actions are an indication spreading racism. "What we felt on our flesh today has taught us that a new era has started," he said. "Racism is no longer found only in documents or on the margins, like with Marzel, but has become a phenomenon among decision makers and carried out on the ground. What happened today in Umm al-Fahm is a menacing escalation."
In another move to protest the police actions, the committee plans to circulate a message among various human rights organizations and leaders around the world.
A spokesman for the Northern District Police Department, Chief Superintendant Yehuda Maman, responded to the accusations by saying the claims were groundless.
"We had no choice but to use legal means of crowd dispersal when law-breaking thugs threw stones at the police forces," he said. "It is unfortunate that the leadership did not succeed in controlling the overexcited crowd."
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