Protesters allegedly hurl stones at police during demo against Gay Pride parade.
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS, JPOST STAFF
Four haredi protesters were arrested in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhod overnight Thursday on suspicion of throwing stones at police during a riot against the planned Gay Pride parade. The detainees included two minors.
Meanwhile, the organizers of a large-scale protest to be held Sunday said the demonstration would likely turn violent.
The showdown follows the police's eleventh-hour authorization of the parade, which is slated to take place next Thursday between Independence and Liberty Bell Parks in central Jerusalem.
Haredi activists said Thursday their public felt they were "deceived" by police with regard to the event, which they said was "an abomination and evil."
"There is a groundswell of intense emotions that I think will turn violent," said Shmuel Popenheim, a spokesman for the hardline anti-Zionist Eda Haredit group that is organizing Sunday evening's demonstration.
He said that as many as 100,000 people would attend the protest, which is set to take place on a central thoroughfare next to the capital's Mea She'arim neighborhood.
The haredi community was hoping police would confine the gay pride event to a closed gathering, as they did last year, citing concerns over public safety. The decision by outgoing Jerusalem Police chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco to authorize the parade was announced at 11:20 p.m on Wednesday night, taking opponents by surprise.
On Wednesday evening, just before the police decision was handed down, four protesters were detained for allegedly stoning police in Mea She'arim.
Some 7,000 police are to safeguard the fifth annual parade, which is being organized by Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center. A counter protest will take place at the same time, in a different part of the city, police said.
Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said that police might still reconsider their approval for the event, based on events on the ground.
Noa Sattath, the Gay and Lesbian Center's executive director, had said the organization would petition the High Court of Justice if police nixed the parade route. Sattath said she hoped haredi leaders would "take responsibility for their own community" and prevent violence.
Last year's parade, set to march through the streets of Jerusalem, was canceled following weeks of violent haredi protests, and instead the event was confined to a soccer stadium on the Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus.
The parade, which draws several thousand participants every year, has been the subject of much debate, with many Orthodox city council members and a not insignificant number of traditional city residents calling it inappropriate for a holy city. Three-quarters of Jerusalem residents oppose holding such events in the city, according to a recent poll.
Supporters of the Gay Pride Parade say it is protected as freedom of speech and expression.
Two bill that could result in the banning of such parades passed preliminary readings in the Knesset earlier this month.
The first bill, proposed by MK Eli Gabai (National Union-National Religious Party), would give the Jerusalem Municipality the right to ban parades and protests that "hurt the public order, public feeling or for religious sensitivity." A second bill proposed by the Shas Party would go further and ban all gay pride parades anywhere in Israel.
The 2005 gay parade in the city ended when a haredi man stabbed three participants.
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