Under a stream of rainbow-colored flags and amongst a consortium of different participants, nearly 3,000 people from around the country turned out Thursday for the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, which began at 4:30pm in the capital’s Independence Park amid a large deployment of security forces and scattered protests against the march.
The parade, which is traditionally held in June, was postponed this year specifically to coincide with the one-year anniversary of a shooting rampage that took place at the Bar Noar gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv last summer, claiming the lives of Nir Katz 24, and Liz Trobashi 27.
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Tel Aviv gay parade draws thousands
That case, which left fifteen others wounded after a masked gunman stormed into the center and opened fire with what is presumed to have been an assault rifle, has yet to be solved.
In accordance with that theme, those wounded in the attack marched -- and pushed themselves in wheelchairs -- alongside fellow participants carrying signs in memory of Katz and Trobashi, with others calling for their killer to be brought to justice.
“It’s one year later, and we still have no answers,” said one participant, Aharon Segev, who added that he was marching for both the victims of the attack and the general issues of equality and rights for Israel’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Israel.
“We came to march today both to remember those who were killed and wounded in that attack, but also to show their attacker that we’re still here.”
Others responded to the protests being leveled against them, stressing that such sentiments contributed to an atmosphere of hatred that heralded such attacks as the one in Tel Aviv.
“These kinds of words and actions are what lead to the grave violence we witnessed a year ago,” Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who took part in the march, told reporters.
"We will continue to come here every year, to Jerusalem, because this is the most important place, not only for the gay community, but for everyone who cares about the free and democratic character of the State of Israel,” he said.
Parade draws widespread condemnation from different groups
Nonetheless, the parade drew condemnation and protest from various groups within the capital, although no violence was reported by police and the march made its way, without incident, from Independence Park to the Wohl Rose Garden, where a memorial service for Katz and Trobashi was held.
At the onset of the parade, in Paris Square on the corner of Agron and Keren Hayesod Streets, a group of right-wing activists led by Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir held up signs declaring, “Jerusalem is a holy city.” and labeling the march a “beast parade,” among others.
Both the well-known activists and their 20 to 30 supporters could be seen yelling slogans at parade participants as they made their way past.
“You’re sick!,” they yelled as the passerby offered them the occasional “boo” or quick response.
“Stay out of Jerusalem, you’re unhealthy for the holy city!” the protesters yelled.
Nearby, police detained for questioning three females who where carrying cartons of eggs, which a Jerusalem police spokesmen said were intended for throwing at participants in the parade.
Haredim hold demonstration against march in capital
While the city’s haredi sector generally refrained from arriving at the parade itself, a demonstration against the march was held in Shabbat Square in the capital’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, where participants read prayers aloud and decried the pride parade as an “abomination” and likened it to “the burning of a Torah.”
And as the parade arrived at the Wohl Rose Garden around 7pm, a third protest, led by deputy mayor Yitzhak Pindrus, carried cardboard cut-outs of donkeys, to symbolize what they labeled the “beastial nature” of the pride parade.
While those protesters had initially asked police for a permit to bring live donkeys for their demonstration, police rejected the request, and the compromise of cardboard donkeys was settled upon.
The protesters were granted permission to congregate at the Supreme Court building, just opposite the Wohl Rose Garden, with their signs and placards.
While their counter-protest was also generally free of violence, police reported that a girl who had been carrying a sign supporting the pride parade, was attacked by two male members of Pindrus’ protest contingent, as the latter were returning from the Supreme Court building.
Police detained the two men, who were brought in for questioning, and
the girl, who did not require medical attention, continued on her way.