Gays petition Court over J'lem parade

"It is the duty of police to protect freedom of expression," say organizers.

gay flag 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
gay flag 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
In a burgeoning legal struggle, Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center on Sunday petitioned the High Court of Justice to force police to approve their annual city parade this month, after police wavered over approving the controversial event, the group said. The move comes one week after the organization offered police a choice of six alternative dates to hold their annual city parade this month, after police, citing a lack of manpower, vetoed their original plans to hold the contested event the day before Rosh HaShana. The dispute mirrors a similar controversy over last month's planned international gay parade in Jerusalem, which was eventually cancelled due to the war in Lebanon. The petition to Israel's highest court, which calls the police's delay in responding to the various proposed dates a de-facto rejection, states that by not approving the parade the police are in essence capitulating to threats of violence against participants. "It is the duty of police to protect freedom of expression, and if the police do not wise up on their own, we are certain that the court will remind police of their obligation to maintain law and order," said Noa Sattath, the executive director of Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center. Police had originally said that they did not have ample forces to secure such an event at such a busy time of the year, which also coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The alternate dates proposed by organizers all fall the week before the upcoming Jewish New Year as well, police said. Jerusalem police spokeswoman Sigal Toledo said Sunday that police were still considering the issue. The prerogative for issuing permits for public events rests with police, who could ban the move due to concerns over public safety. The annual local parade, which draws several thousand participants every year, has been the source of repeated debate, with many religious city councilors and a not insignificant number of largely traditional city residents considering such an event inappropriate for a "holy" city. The organization has held four previous gay parades in the city. The last gay parade in the city ended in violence after a haredi attacker stabbed three participants in the event.