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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem
Ethiopians march to protest May 31 tent eviction
By MELANIE LIDMAN
11/05/2012
Activists have held vigil outside of the residence for 89 days to protest racism against Ethiopians.
 
Two dozen Ethiopian activists marched from their protest tent at the Prime Minister’s Residence to the Jerusalem Municipality on Thursday afternoon to protest the decision to evict them from the tent at the end of the month. The activists have held vigil outside of the residence for 89 days to protest racism against Ethiopians, on the same spot where the tent for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit stood for three years.

The eviction was the result of a compromise between the protesters and the municipality, after the municipality petitioned the courts to evict them because the tent was an eyesore.

The city tried to remove the tent prior to the Jerusalem marathon on March 16, since the route passed by the protest tent. According to the compromise, reached on April 24, the original tent was replaced by a white canvas shade and activists could no longer sleep on the premises. The canvas structure will be removed on May 31.

Activists said they would hold additional events in May to bring awareness to discrimination against Ethiopians, including a major protest on May 24.

“There’s sympathy for our struggle but apathy in society,” said Yayauo Tegani, one of the central activists. “Discrimination doesn’t hurt them, so it doesn’t affect them.”

Alemitu Ferede, the 30-yearold from Ashdod who was the driving force behind the protest tent, said that the tent’s presence in downtown Jerusalem at a high-traffic intersection was an important tool for fighting racism. Between 30-40 new people stopped by each day to talk with the activists and hear personal stories about discrimination in society.

“People are waking up that weren’t involved,” she said.

“Lots of people come by here and then they want to take part in our struggle.”

In addition to passersby, some high school groups also visited the tent to discuss racism. Tent representatives have also met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other politicians during the course of their three-month protest.

Tegani is careful not to compare their struggle to the Schalit family’s protest tent.

But he defended their right to stay in the same spot as the Schalit’s, with the same goal of bringing public awareness to their problem of widespread discrimination.

“We are standing up for what we believe in, and that can’t wait,” he said. “It’s getting worse, and it’s against the entire community, not just one person. We’re doing this because the whole time you’re just trying to be equal. You do all the same things [as Israelis], all the same paths and experiences, but at the end you still feel like a foreigner.”
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