Police Demands Israeli Gay Pride Parade Put Up High Fence, Stay Away From ultra-Orthodox

Among the requirements are a 2-meter-high fence along the route and staying away from the local Chabad House – to protect the marchers, say police

The first Gay Pride Parade in Be'er Sheva in 2017.
\ Ilan Assayag

The police are making stringent demands of the organizers of the Gay Pride Parade in Kfar Sava as a condition for granting a permit for the march. The requirements include the construction of a two-meter-high fence to cordon off the route and the stationing of large vehicles at junctions along the path, all at the organizers’ expense.

These measures are needed to protect the marchers and because “this is a sensitive event that requires a large police deployment,” said the police.

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Last week, representatives of the Israeli Gay Youth organization approached the Kfar Sava police and asked for a permit to hold the city’s first pride parade. The march is planned over a circular route of about 750 meters, beginning and ending at the Jerusalem pedestrian mall, through a short section of Weizmann Street (the city’s main street) and the Arim Mall plaza. This route was agreed upon after organizers and the director of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force, Ohad Hizki, agreed last week to the police’s request to change the route so it would not pass by the local Chabad House.

Subsequently, in response to the permit request, the police made a series of demands, among them for the “area of the procession be enclosed and fenced off by a two-meter fence,” and for “intersections adjacent to the procession to be blocked by a large vehicle (bus or truck).”

The police said these measures are needed to prevent any incidents like the murder of Shira Banki at the pride parade in Jerusalem in 2015, even though police have no intelligence information on intentions to harm the marchers, said the parade organizers.

In a conversation with Sapir Slutzker-Amran, an attorney with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Kfar Sava police chief expressed willingness to compromise on the height of the fence, but insisted on the other conditions.

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The demand to fence off the procession and block the intersections along its route essentially means that the marchers will be isolated. Organizers Alon Maor and David Baum, counselors at the gay youth club in Kfar Sava, told Haaretz: “The march symbolizes our struggle to walk through the city with confidence, to hold hands with our partners downtown without fear, not sidelined in some hidden place.” 

“This defeats one of the main objectives of the parade, which is for it to seen by all,” said Slutzker-Amran.

The police also made it clear to the organizers that they would have to bear cost for the fences and blockades along the route, since it’s a march and not a stationary demonstration, for which the police are obligated to cover the expenses. Organizers estimate the cost of these requirements at NIS 30,000 ($8,380).

The Kfar Sava municipality is helping fund the parties to be held at the beginning and the end of the march, but won’t pay security costs for the march.

“The costs are estimated at tens of thousands of shekels, a large sum that the demonstrators cannot pay, and as a result these demands actually curtail the right to demonstrate,” said Slutzker-Amran. “The extraordinary sensitivity concerning the security for pride parades following the murder of Shira Banki, of blessed memory, is clear, but it’s also clear that this does not allow the police to roll over the security and barricade costs on the organizers.”

The police said in response: “The conditions set for the event are necessary for it to take place, as is required for other events of this kind. The conditions are meant to safeguard the parade and maintain public order, while minimizing disruption to the fabric of life of the city’s residents. The costs of the march are to be borne by the organizers, as with other events, since the taxpayer cannot be expected to fund the cost of producing parades, even if their goals are worthy. The role of the police is to balance between permitting parades, marches, performances, etc. in the public domain, and the concern for public safety and security.”

The Kfar Sava municipality said: “As in previous years, the Kfar Sava municipality is holding a variety of activities to mark Pride and Tolerance Month, including lectures, films and activities. Unlike these events, the pride parade is not connected to the municipality’s activities, is not being coordinated with it and is not a municipal event, so responsibility for it lies solely with the organizers.”

Chen Arieli, chairman of the Aguda, said that the association was preparing to challenge the restrictions in court.

“The police’s decision to make it difficult for the parade to take place and to place responsibility for funding security on the organizers’ shoulders is outrageous, and in my opinion is fundamentally illegal,” she said. “The Israel Police cannot be an obstacle to the gay pride parade, not in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem, not in Kfar Sava or in any other city in Israel. This is a civil right, and if it is not realized by agreement, it will be achieved by legal means. We call on the public to vote with their feet and prove to the police and the Kfar Sava municipality the public importance of [the parade] taking place.”

In 2016, organizers canceled the Be'er Sheva gay pride parade after the High Court of Justice denied their petition against a police decision that forbade participants from marching along the city's main road. In the High Court ruling, the justices wrote they were convinced that intelligence reports on potential violence during the parade – presented to them by the police – justified at least a partial diversion of the parade from the city's Rager Boulevard. The city declined to support the march and a number of city council members objected to holding the event. The march was held a year later along an alternative route.