Police under fire after massive force descends on south Tel Aviv cafe

At least eight police cruisers turn up at small cafe on Gdud Ha'Ivri Street; owner and barista arrested.

South Tel Aviv cafe police raid (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
South Tel Aviv cafe police raid
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
A south Tel Aviv cafe popular with leftwing activists was issued a closure notice by police Tuesday morning, hours after a large-scale police and Border Police force descended on the cafe in response to what they said was a noise complaint – even as those present say the cafe was closed at the time.
The deployment of police to the Albi Cafe – captured in a video posted on Tuesday – included at least 8 police cruisers lined up outside the small cafe on Gdud Ha’ivri Street in south Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv Police said Tuesday that the officers were dispatched after a municipal inspector called to ask for back-up after he was refused entry and locked out of the cafe, while another officer was locked in.
Police said the inspector arrived following a noise complaint by neighbors, though those present at the cafe maintain the cafe was closed at the time of the incident and employees were cleaning up inside.
The incident Monday night came about two weeks after activist and patron Ortal Ben Dayan was arrested by the Border Police at the cafe after she said she tried to prevent Border Police officers from harassing an Arab family outside the cafe. Ben Dayan was arrested for refusing to identify herself to police, and the arresting officer was later removed from duty for insulting Ben Dayan as a “retarded leftist.”
A number of people on Tuesday accused policed of trying to settle a grudge by intimidating the cafe, with MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) writing on her Facebook page Tuesday morning that “the combination of the night arrests and the arrest of Ortal Ben Dayan give the impression of unprecedented maltreatment.”
“This entails the hounding of a cafe, its work and its guests because of the political struggle of south Tel Aviv and the periphery that they represent. The message of police is: Don’t mess with us. Our message is: This hounding won’t pass,” she added.
Zandberg also posted a picture of the closure warrant, which accuses the cafe of selling alcohol without a warrant, of lacking the proper permits and engineering plan approved by the city and police, lacking approved electrical systems, a security plan, a firefighters permit, and a gas permit, among other licensing requirements.
The warrant was issued at 4:40 a.m. and is valid until September 24, 2013.
Attorney Gaby Luskey, who is representing the two employees arrested Tuesday night, said that the business was closed at the time and that the cafe had all of the required municipal permits to operate.
She said that she believes the closure to be illegal and part of a continued police tendency to harass local activists in south Tel Aviv.
She added: “It’s bizarre and illegal that in an area of high violence the police could free up so many officers in order to come and stop this cafe, supposedly because of a noise complaint. They don’t bring this much manpower when there’s a murder. This is a continued policy and operational approach of using violence and business closures toward those who dare to speak out against the establishment.
In a response on Tuesday morning, police said that “after receiving complaints from citizens of noise coming from the cafe, a city inspector came by and asked the employee present to turn down the noise. She refused and the inspector called for police assistance. A cop car arrived with an inspector and a police officer. The officer went into the business and explained to the girl that she must identify herself. She continued to refuse, and then a separate woman exploited the situation to lock the cafe.
The inspector who was locked outside called the dispatch and said there was an officer inside the cafe and cop cars arrived at the scene. Eventually two women were taken into custody to the police station.”
Appoximately 200 people took part in a protest outside the Albi Cafe on Tuesday evening against actions taken by the police. After gathering outside the restaurant, they marched toward the Tel Aviv police headquarters.