JERUSALEM, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Thousands rallied in central Israel on Saturday to protest the killing of an Arab protester by a police security guard earlier this week.
The rally, held in the Arab town of Kafr Qasim, came in the wake of the controversial shooting of 21-year-old Mouhamad Mahmoud Taha by a private security guard outside Kafr Qasim's police station amidst clashes between local protestors and the police Monday overnight.
The killing sparked anger among Israel's Arab minority, who have long accused the police of a harsh and discriminatory policy against Arabs.
The demonstrators held banners and shouted slogans denouncing the police violence and conduct.
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens, an umbrella organization that organized the rally, blamed the police for the killing.
A statement released by the committee said the police employed a "trigger-happy policy" and harsh means to oppress Arab protests while they failed to protect Arab citizens from soaring crimes in Arab towns.
Over the past two months, criminal violence in Kafr Qasim claimed lives of six people but the police have not arrested any suspects, according to figures released by the town's mayor, Adel Badir.
Jamal Zahalka, a lawmaker with the Arab-Jewish Joint List Party, said in a statement that Police Chief Roni Alsheikh and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan "failed to deal with the growing crime in Arab society and they need to resign," adding that "the police are abandoning Arab citizens to criminal organizations."
The incident started when the police tried to detain a civil security officer, who was hired by the locals to protect the community against crime.
According to the police, hundreds of men gathered at the site, trying to prevent the arrest.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the "rioters" torched a police car and hurled stones at the police station. The guard, whose name was not disclosed, said he felt his life was in danger and shot in self defense. He was questioned by the police on the day of the shooting and then allowed to go home.
According to the eyewitnesses and Arab leaders, Taha posed no threat at the time of the shooting and the riots started only after the killing.
The incident came in a time of spiraling tensions between the police and Arabs amidst complaints of partial and shoddy law enforcement.
In January, the police shot and killed a 47-year-old schoolteacher. They initially accused him of being an Islamic State terrorist who tried to run over a police officer, but later acknowledged he was not a terrorist and may have been killed by mistake.
Constituting about 20 percent of Israel's population, Israeli Arabs are Palestinians who stayed put during the 1948 war and became citizens after the statehood of Israel. They enjoy full citizenship but frequently face racism and discrimination in all areas of life, including fewer job opportunities, less access to health and education, and less public budgets for infrastructure in Arab towns.