On Wednesday afternoon, a protest outside a cell phone store in a haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem turned violent, with police brutality documented by several individuals. Ten protesters were arrested in the course of the protest, and the Police Investigations Department has opened an investigation into a violent incident perpetrated by a police officer.
During the protest, plain-clothes police officers violently arrested a young haredi man who was uninvolved in the protest. He drew attention to himself only because he approached a detective who was sitting in an unmarked car and not in police uniform, to tell him that his vehicle had damaged another vehicle.
By Thursday morning, nine of those arrested had been released, but the subject of the violent arrest was taken into court where police claimed that he had been part of the demonstration and that he had attacked a police officer. The judge dismissed the police’s claims and released the prisoner unconditionally, after viewing documentation of the attack and severely reprimanding the police for their conduct.
The young man, Haim Mizrachi, spoke with Kikar Hashabbat immediately following his release, and stressed that when he spoke to the plain-clothes detective at the protest, he had no idea that he was a police officer.
“I told him that he’d caused damage to another car, and suddenly a whole group of police officers surrounded me and started beating the living daylights out of me. Even once they had dragged me into the police car they continued beating me – they were punching me in the head.”
When they reached the police station, the police officers continued their vicious attack, and also refused to let their prisoner use the bathroom facilities.
During the court hearing the next morning, the judge confronted one of the police officers, asking him, “Do you realize how serious this is?”
The only response was, “Mmmmm…”
The judge then told the police officer how “appalled” she was at the violence shown – “totally senseless violence. I find it impossible to understand how it could be that after viewing this documentation [of the police attack], the prisoner was not immediately released with apologies, and the case referred to the Police Investigations Department.”
Again the police failed to respond.
The judge then ordered the protocol of the hearing to be sent to the PID.
Following the hearing, police released a statement saying: “Yesterday there occurred a violent disturbance of the peace in Jerusalem against storekeepers selling cellular phones. Dozens of rioters disturbed the public order and caused damage to the store and also blocked traffic.
“While police were working to restore order and after an order to disperse was given, police used various means to cause the crowd to disperse in order to bring an end to the violent protest. During the disturbance, eight suspects were arrested for causing damage and disturbing the public order. Since yesterday we have viewed partial documentation which does not show the disturbance to the public order or the extended violence that occurred.
“If there are complaints against the police who acted to preserve the public order, they will be investigated by authorities as is always the case. We will continue to enable the public to exercise their right to protest within the boundaries of the law, but we will not permit public disturbances, vandalism, or illegal violence.”