Police Chief: 12,000 police to secure gay pride march
Mass deployment meant to prevent use of violence and road closures on the part of the protestors.
Israel Police Inspector General Moshe Karadi stated on Monday that 12,000 police, including most of the Border Patrol troops stationed in the West Bank, will be deployed to secure the gay pride parade to be held on Friday in Jerusalem.
Most of the police personnel will be deployed across Jerusalem, with the rest stationed at major junctions throughout the country to prevent protestors from burning tires and blocking roads.
On Sunday, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz turned down a police request to ban the gay pride parade because of threats of violence.
Instead he instructed police and gay activists to work toward a compromise for a "parade with a modest character," according to the capital's police commander, Ilan Franco.
The police had asked Mazuz to prohibit the event, arguing that there were serious concerns of life-threatening violence by ultra-Orthodox demonstrators.
Ultra-Orthodox youth have rioted in Jerusalem nearly every night during the past week, setting garbage cans ablaze, blocking roads and attacking police officers in a show of force aimed at blocking the parade.
According to Jerusalem police, six policemen have been hurt in the clashes over the past week and 60 rioters have been arrested.
Over the weekend, the disturbances spread outside Jerusalem to the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, where rioters blocked one of the country's main highways with burning tires.
Nevertheless, Mazuz argued that the parade constitutes a manifestation of the right of free expression and of the legitimate right of homosexual people to demonstrate, and he directed the police to divert the route of the march away from ultra-Orthodox and Muslim neighborhoods.
The gay pride parade in Jerusalem had been approved by the Supreme Court months ago.
Following a meeting of all senior police officers on Sunday, an announcement was made that the danger of violence was too great to allow the event to take place, but that Mazuz was entitled to make the final decision.
"We understand that the potential danger to life and bloodshed is greater than that to free speech," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
At last year's march, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed and wounded three participants.
After the attorney general made his decision public, a spokesperson for the Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which is organizing the event, welcomed his stance and called it a boost to democracy and freedom of expression in Israel.
A gay activist said that the parade route would be discussed with the police and indicated that a police proposal to hold a rally in a park instead of marching through the center of the city might be acceptable.
However, the debate over holding a parade in Jerusalem has also sparked some dissent among the gay community, some of whose members raised the possibility of canceling the event in return for something else: Jerusalem city council member Sa'ar Netanel and Itay Pinkas, the advisor to the mayor of Tel Aviv on gay affairs, said they would consider calling off the parade if ultra-Orthodox parties would agree to abstain in Knesset votes on a bill on common-law marriage.
"The parade is a means and not an end," Pinkas said. "All they [ultra-Orthodox] need to do, when the civil-law marriage bill is read at the Knesset, is to say, 'We are not there, this doesn't concern us, we'll allow [the law] to be passed.'"
Meanwhile, the High Court of Justice will deliberate on Monday on a petition filed by an ultra-Orthodox man, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, against the Jerusalem Police, the Open House, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, demanding that the authorization for the parade be rescinded.