Police expected to ban Jerusalem gay pride parade

Haredi rioters continue riots against events

Jerusalem police are expected to announce Sunday that they are banning a planned gay parade in the city due to concerns over public safety. The move comes after weeks of burgeoning opposition and threats of violence if the parade takes place. Haredi protesters have rioted for five days in a row in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood against the parade. Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested for attacking police officers during the protests, and dozens of police officers have been injured in the demonstrations. The violence continued on Saturday night as haredim pelted police with stones and set garbage bins on fire in the streets of the neighborhood, blocking all traffic in the area. The post-Shabbat protests continued into the night at various street corners in the neighborhood. Four vehicles were also damaged by spikes the protesters placed on the street, the police said. The prerogative for issuing permits for public events rests with police, who are expected to cite their concerns for public safety in making their decision. A poster which was erected in Mea She'arim on Friday called Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco the grandson of a Nazi SS officer. The parade, which is scheduled to take place on Friday in central Jerusalem, was planned following a petition to the High Court of Justice by the city's gay and lesbian center. Franco met with officials from the State Attorney's Office last week to discuss the legal justifications for banning the parade. The meeting was the latest public indication that police are planning to ban the parade in Jerusalem. A police veto will immediately be met with another appeal by Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center which is organizing the event, the group's executive director Noa Sattath said last week. Organizers have rejected a compromise raised by Franco to hold an alternate event in a city park. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter has said that no permit would be issued for the parade if securing the march required so many officers that police would be forced to abandon other crucial duties. "If police believe that they cannot guarantee public safety, the march will not go ahead," Dichter said on Israel Radio. The debate over the parade mirrors a similar controversy over this summer's planned international gay parade in Jerusalem, which was eventually cancelled due to the war in Lebanon. The burgeoning opposition to the local city parade has again united an unusual cross-party and inter-faith coalition of conservative Orthodox Rabbis, Muslims, and Christians who call the event a deliberate affront and provocation to millions of believers around the world. Supporters of the parade counter that freedom of speech enables them to hold the event in Jerusalem, as a symbol of tolerance and pluralism, even if theirs is the view of the minority of the city's residents. The two-year-old public debate over holding the international gay parade in Jerusalem has only served to intensify the struggle over the local parade. 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. The assailant is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.