Hundreds of Police Deployed to Curb J'lem Anti-gay Pride Parade Riots

Chief rabbis urge country-wide protests against gay pride march; Police Chief: 12,000 police officers to secure J'lem parade.

Jonathan Lis
Amiram Barkat
Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondents
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Jonathan Lis
Amiram Barkat
Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondents

Hundreds of police forces deployed in residential areas of Jerusalem on Monday as demonstrations against the upcoming gay pride parade erupted in the city's religious neighborhoods for a second week.

A taxi driver was lightly injured when his cab struck a trash receptacle rolled into the streets by ultra-Orthodox protesters. Police took over residential streets to force demonstrators to clear the roads and cease disturbances. Over the course of the evening, protests spilled over from the city's ultra-Orthodox streets into more mixed areas.

Early Monday evening, officers blocked hundreds of demonstrators marching from Sabbath Square to Jaffa Street. Police also dispersed dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters trying to block traffic on various streets in Rehavia.

Police also arrested a protester marching with hundreds of demonstrators in Beit Shemesh, outside of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, near the entrance to the central city of Hadera, ultra-Orthodox demonstrators torched tires and hurled them onto the highway in an attempt to block traffic. They ceased protests when instructed to do so by their rabbi. Dozens more protesters also demonstrated Monday at the Kfar Hasidim junction.

Israel's chief rabbinate on Monday called Israel's homosexuals the "lowest of people," and urged the public to assemble for a country-wide prayer rally later this week as marchers gather in Jerusalem for the gay pride parade.

The two chief rabbis called an emergency meeting where they harshly attacked the organizers of the parade, scheduled for Friday, and called the planned event a "threatening plot."

"We were horrified to hear of the threatening plot that an abominated minority of our brothers is planning, convening to carry out abominations that make them the lowest of people," the rabbis wrote in a statement.

"Everyone from toddlers to the elderly will join in the streets and bitterly protest this awful abomination that is desecrating Israel's name throughout the nations," read the statement, calling on the public to oppose the event peacefully. "Of course they will do this [protest] in the appropriate way without violence or harm to property."

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar resisted claims that the rabbis' message supports and even encourages the violent atmosphere that has permeated ultra-Orthodox streets in Jerusalem in recent days as protesters demonstrate against the parade .

Rabbi Amar told Army Radio on Monday, "the job of the rabbinate is to appease and connect the people, but it impossible to silence others in the name of holy appeasement."

Rabbi Amar said he would not criticize homosexual relations, as long as it is kept within the individual and not announced to the public.

"This is an individual issue that is kept private, and when it is opened to the public it gives a hard blow to education. This isn't an ordinary crime but a very severe outburst."

Police Chief: 12,000 officers to secure pride march Israel Police Commissioner 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.



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