African migrants, activists hold World Refugee Day rally

Civil rights lawyer: “Today we are holding a protest that we didn’t plan, against police who worked to prevent us from holding this event.”

June 26, 2011 08:19
2 minute read.
African Refugees

African Refugees 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Around 100 Israelis and African migrants held a rally at Lewinsky Park in south Tel Aviv on Friday to protest the last-minute cancellation of a World Refugee Day celebration, after organizers could not meet last minute demands from police to receive a permit.

The protest was a rather quiet and subdued affair, coming in place of an event that was scheduled to feature performances of around 10 Israeli and African DJs and musicians at the site of the old central bus station, and that organizers said had been in the works for months at the expense of tens of thousands of shekels.

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“We held a long dialogue with police over the past month and up until this week we were certain there wouldn’t be any problems,” said Orit Marom, advocacy coordinator for the refugee and asylum seekers aid organization Assaf, on Friday.

Marom said that the day before the event, a security engineer from the police presented organizers with a five-page report detailing all types of “bizarre, insane” arrangements they would have to do at the last minute, making it impossible to carry out the event.

Marom said the demands, which she said included reinforcing structures at the site of the old central bus station “are not only impossible for us to do, but not our job to do.” She said the demands also required organizers to be responsible for the security and safety of the event, which typically is up to police to ensure.

Marom said organizers are planning a lawsuit over the police conduct, which she said brought about the cancellation of an event “that was supposed to showcase bands and singers and a celebration of the lives they [refugees] live.”

Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the rally Friday, “Today we are holding a protest that we didn’t plan, against police who worked to prevent us from holding this event.”

Feller said the event “would have featured activities for children, and could also show the positive actions of the groups and the activists who are working to help asylum-seekers in Israel. But the police would not let us hold the event.”

Feller added that police “requested that we make repairs to the old central bus station area, build structures for the event and bring permits from a safety engineer – things that they are not allowed to demand of us.”

Tel Aviv District Police said Friday that “organizers were told what safety conditions they would have to adhere to in order to hold the event and when they refused they were presented with an alternative that they accepted.”

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