The police will not tolerate violence and anarchy in the widspread protests by the Ethiopian community in Israel, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday, warning that if protests resume, they would be met with resolve.
Erdan was speaking after protests erupted over the killing of a teenager of Ethiopian origin in Haifa by an off-duty policeman on Sunday. The protests, which swiftly turned violent, were held at major interchanges and roads across the country on Tuesday evening, after the funeral for 19-year-old Solomon Tekah. Police said 111 officers and dozens of protesters were wounded and 136 people were arrested.
The Ethiopian community is protesting against what they see as discrimination against them because of the color of their skins and say 40 years of polite demonstrations have achieved nothing.
"I identify with the pain expressed and with the legitimate right to demonstrate," Erdan told Ynet, "but anarchy is not acceptable and causing injuries and damage to property will not be tolerated at all."
He told the Israeli media that instigators of violence who incited young members of the community on social media would be dealt with.
Asked whether the police were too timid in their response on Tuesday, Erdan said: "We remember protests in Israel over the years, some even ending with fatalities, and I think the police are acutely aware of those events and doing everything in their power so that demonstrators exercising their democratic rights do not suffer loss of life."
Erdan said Israel Police had made major strides to correct excessive policing against members of the Ethiopian community, and statistics show a drop of 21% in the number of arrests in the sector compared to past years.
The protests continued into the night Tuesday at over 20 locations around the country, blocking intersections, setting vehicles on fire and causing damage to police vehicles and ambulances. Up to 50,000 commuters were stranded for hours in massive traffic jams throughout the country.
In some of the violence that erupted, protesters hurled a Molotov cocktail at a police station in the Haifa district. Other protesters in the area were hurling rocks at the police.
Police officers were also attacked in the southern city of Ashdod. At least 10 protesters were arrested. In the coastal city of Netanya, at least one police car was attacked.
In Tel Aviv, protesters outside the Azrieli shopping center set fire to a car and began attacking other vehicles in the area. They also blocked the nearby junction to the Ayalon Highway that encircles the city.
"We do not want committees, we do not want to be appeased by talk and we do not want to be treated like second class citizens anymore," said one protester on Tuesday.
"It is time the law is applied to everyone equally. The days of quiet and polite demonstrations that yield nothing, are over."
Ilana Curiel, Yishai Porat, Eli Sinyor, Ahiye Raved, Itay Blumenthal, Roy Rubinstein and Raanan Ben Tsur contributed to this article