Police deny charges of 'criminal violence' during Nakba riot

The Adalah Arab Israeli legal advocacy organization will lodge a complaint with the Police Investigations Department (PID) over what it says are "acts of criminal violence" by the police against Arab Israeli demonstrators on May 8, when hundreds of Arabs gathered to mourn the establishment of the State of Israel on Nakba ("catastrophe") Day. During the incident, hundreds of Israeli Arabs walked toward the former Arab village of Saffuriya, today Moshav Tzipori. Police say a large number of youths became inflamed during the march after hearing praise for Hizbullah and calls for attacks on Jews. The march deteriorated into a full-blown riot, and two police officers and an Arab MK were hospitalized for wounds during the clashes. "We are currently preparing a complaint, which may be followed be legal action," Orna Cohen, an Adalah attorney, said. "The violence against the demonstrators was massive and unjustified. Stun grenades and tear gas were fired, batons were used, and people returning to their cars were attacked without justification," Cohen said. She added that a number of people were arrested after the incident, describing the arrests as "illegal." "Police violated their rights by arresting them without a warrant. All of this is documented." Cohen added that "the demonstrators displayed model behavior during the demonstration, and only threw rocks in response to the police violence." The police's Northern District denied Adalah's charges, saying that despite making the utmost efforts to ensure that the march could go ahead, organizers were unable to keep the marchers under control. "Participants began rioting while descending onto the road, which forced the police to block off the road in order to protect road users," the police said. "Demonstrators threw rocks at vehicles, endangering road users, and at police officers who were the scene. A number of officers were injured by the rock throwing... and police was forced to disperse the rioters, using force and crowd dispersal means." The Northern Police District commander, Shimon Koren, and the head of the Amakim Subdistrict Police, Lt.-Cmdr. Zohar Dvir, suffered light wounds during the disturbance. Shortly after the incident, a police spokesman described "several instances of incitement during the march. Calls were shouted in praise of Hizbullah, an illegal organization. Despite the incitement, we did not stop the march, and only became involved when violence broke out." The march was also attended by MKs Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) and Wasal Taha (Balad). Taha was hospitalized for a head injury he said was caused by a plainclothes police officer striking him with a rock. "An undercover officer hit me with a rock on the head," Taha told The Jerusalem Post. "Before I was injured, the officer struck me in an attempt to provoke me." But the police dismissed out of hand Taha's claim of being struck by a plainclothes officer armed with a rock. "We had no undercover police in the crowd. We acted in full, plain view of everyone," Amakim spokesman spokesman Supt. Gary Aviad said. "How does Taha know he wasn't injured by a demonstrator? It's the rioters who, through their conduct, began endangering lives, forcing us to dispel them."