Gay parade in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bolstered by increased security forces amid heightened tensions hundreds of participants set out in Jerusalem's LGBT pride parade on Thursday evening.
The march is taking place in memory of 16-year-old Shira Banki, who was murdered at the parade last year by a knife-wielding Jewish extremist.
This year's route for the contested parade in conservative Jerusalem was extended under strict security measures
in order to prevent possible harm to participants by activists who oppose the event.
Expecting a record turnout following last year’s deadly hate crime – committed by Yishai Schlissel, who was released from prison days before for carrying out a similar attack 10 years earlier – police spokeswoman Luba Samri said multiple units are leaving nothing to chance.
Hundreds of security forces will be deployed to oversee the procession.
Beginning Thursday at 2:30 p.m., the police will close the following streets to all traffic: Keren Hayesod, King George, Meir Shacham, Rabbi Akiva, Hillel, Menashe Ben Israel and Agron. The roads will be reopened in accordance with the progress of the marchers.
Drivers are being asked to remain patient during the closings, and to follow the directions of traffic police.
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The parade will start at 5 p.m. at Liberty Park up Keren Hayesod/King George, turn right at Meir Shacham, left at Rabbi Akiva, right onto Hillel, right at Menashe Ben Israel, and conclude at Independence Park. Following the march, a rally will be held at 8 p.m.
On Wednesday, Mayor Nir Barkat was lambasted by left-wing politicians as being insensitive and biased, after announcing he will not attend Jerusalem’s gay pride parade because it is damaging to the sensibilities of the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing sectors.
Many left-wing and center-left politicians took offense at what they deemed to be the mayor’s insensitive and myopic stance, particularly following the murder Banki by religious zealot Schlissel at last year’s parade.
Also on Wednesday, police arrested Schlissel's brother
on suspicion of “seeking to interfere” with this year’s event on Thursday.
The police said several people had been arrested including at least one other member of Schlissel’s family.Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.
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