Citing “institutionalized racism and violence,” the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier whose video-taped beating at the hands of a police officer in Holon last month sparked multiple protests and riots, filed a NIS 390,000 lawsuit against Israel Police on Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed by Damas Pakada’s attorney, Eyal Abulafia, at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
Noting that the assault took place while Pakada was in uniform, the lawsuit stated that the attack was “an incidence of racism-motivated police violence,” adding that it was “among the most shocking seen in Israel and recent times.” Video footage of the April assault quickly went viral, causing outrage within Israel’s marginalized Ethiopian community.
Shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with Pakada to personally apologize. The officer responsible for the beating was suspended after the video, taken by a witness, was posted online.
In the video, Pakada can be seen walking a bike on a residential street the police had blocked off because of a suspicious package. The soldier tries to keep walking and is pushed back once, and then a second time before the officer knees him, punches him in the face and puts his hands around his neck momentarily. The soldier appears to throw a punch at the officer after he was struck.
The officer and a volunteer then throw him to the ground in a vacant lot and continue to push him as he gets to his feet and refuses to stay down. At the end of the video, after more officers come and break up the fracas, the soldier can be seen picking up a rock and rearing back as if to throw it at the officer, who appears to have his hand on his sidearm. He drops the rock and the video cuts out.
“On the surface, even though it has not been extensively examined, the recording appears to show unacceptable behavior that strays from the behavioral norms we require in the organization. The officers have been suspended and the evidence was immediately passed to the department for investigation by the police. A decision on the future service of the officers will be made depending on the department’s findings,” Tel Aviv police said in a statement at the time of the incident.
Earlier this month, violent protests erupted in cities across Israel in the wake of the incident, such as in Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv, as an anti-police brutality protest by Israeli Jews of Ethiopian descent spun out of control, with protesters throwing rocks and bottles at police, who fired stun grenades and charged the square repeatedly on horseback.Ben Hartman contributed to this report