Tens of thousands of Israelis and tourists gathered in Tel Aviv on Friday for the annual Gay Pride Parade, which took place just days after police announced they had found the perpetrators of the 2009 shooting in a gay youth club. Despite the gag order on the investigation, rumors were rife and tempers flared at the parade, with many lashing out at the police for claiming that the motive for the crime − in which two gay youth were killed − was a personal vendetta rather than a hate crime. Politicians and public figures joined in the criticism of the police assessment, in speeches they gave at Meir Park at the start of the parade which, according to organizers, was attended by 100,000 people.
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“Some people will try to associate unacceptable actions before the murders with the entire community and we will fight this,” said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, addressing the crowd at the opening rally . “Even if the killer meant to hurt one person, he loathes the lives of those who were at Bar Noar,” she said at Meir Park.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, who became the first Likud representative ever to address the Gay Pride Parade told the crowd: “Even if details are not yet fully known, it is obvious that the murder of innocent youth is a hate crime.”
Many members of the community know the details of the investigation into the Bar Noar shooting spree, including the identity of the gay community member who is under arrest and the suspicions against him.
Following the report in Haaretz that Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) is reconsidering a bill to compensate the victims of the Bar Noar shooting, because it was based on the presumption that the attack was a hate crime against gays, she took a different stance at the event. In an unplanned speech, German said that “it is unacceptable for youth to be hurt for doing nothing wrong, no matter what the motive is, and not be compensated.”
Police say they have enough evidence against three of the four suspects in custody to back up their suspicions and are trying to assess the part played by the fourth suspect, the member of the gay community. They say it is already clear that he had nothing to do with the killings or with planning the killings. His part in the affair has to do with the motives of the other three suspects involved in the shootings.
The fourth suspect, a well-known activist at Bar Noar, is suspected of a very serious offense against a minor, involving exploiting his position. They are exploring whether this exploitation was a single instance or was ongoing.
Police are now looking into whether the fourth suspect was aware that the shooting was an attempt by the other suspects to get back at him, and whether he had concealed this information from police when they questioned him on several occasions.
A number of people came to the police station to give evidence. They were asked about the fourth suspect and his conduct at Bar Noar; one of his tasks was to help teens who were seeking their sexual identity.
The first speaker at the rally, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, took to the stage as the crowd booed. “You worked for many years so that senior ministers would come here,” he said.
However, he could not overcome the heckling and made do with a short address. “No shouts will put a stop to our deep commitment to the community,” and added that he intends to work to legalize same-sex marriage.
Opposition head Shelly Yacimovich said the gay community had to demand more of elected officials. “Here on stage there is an unprecedented presence of gay-friendly politicians.” The Labor Party leader said first on the agenda was the matter of gay marriage.
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said that she “couldn’t believe her ears when [she] heard in the media that the Bar Noar shooting was not a hate crime − nonsense, shooting innocent people is an act of hate.”
When the rally at Gan Meir ended, participants seemed to put these weighty matters aside in favor of a few hours of dancing in the streets. The parade moved up Bograshov Street, onto Ben Yehuda Street and then Arlosoroff, winding up at Gordon Street, where DJs and famous Israeli singers serenaded the crowd up until sunset.