Be'er Sheva Gay Pride Parade Canceled in Protest of Police Diverting Route

After High Court sides with police on diversion of march's route from city's main thoroughfare, organizers nix event, to hold protest instead.

Marchers in Ashdod's gay pride parade on Friday, June 17, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

Organizers canceled the Be'er Sheva gay pride parade scheduled for Thursday, after the High Court denied their petition against a police decision that forbade participants from marching through the city's main road.

Instead of marching, a protest will be held outside the Be'er Sheva municipality. 

In the High Court ruling, the justices wrote that they were convinced that intelligence reports on potential violence at the parade presented to them by the police justified at least a partial diversion of the parade from the Negev city's Rager Boulevard.

The intelligence information was provided on an ex parte basis, meaning that it was not given to the petitioners' representatives. Justice Hanan Melcer said the information was serious in nature and noted that there had been even calls by opponents of the parade and those potentially attending the event to carry arms. The petitioners rejected a compromise proposed by the court that would have allowed one segment of the parade route to include Rager Boulevard.

The petition was filed by Be’er Sheva’s Pride House and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel challenging the decision by the police to divert the route from the Negev city's main street, Rager Boulevard, at least in part due to threats.

Reacting to the court's decision, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said in part: "In 2016, it is not logical to relegate the gay community to a pride parade on a side route and not on the city's main streets." This is particularly true in Be'er Sheva, where the parade is being organized for the first time, the group stated. "In our view, if there are threats, the police need to deal with them, whether on side streets or main streets," the organization said.

Responding to the petition, police said they decided to divert the parade from the main road not only due to concerns about the participants' safety, but also because the event could "deeply hurt religious sentiments" in light of the numerous religious institutions in the area. Other considerations included disruption to traffic and the restriction of access to Soroka Medical Center.