Thousands march in Jerusalem pride parade under peak security

Thousands marched Thursday in Jerusalem's annual gay parade amid unprecedented security following the fatal stabbing of an Israeli teen at last year's event.

Some 30 people were detained, including several who carried various types of knives, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. Others had tried to disrupt the parade.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a video message, called for unity, saying: "We will not let hate drown out acceptance."

The parents of 16-year-old Shira Banki, killed last year, urged anyone who "cannot accept violence as a legitimate demonstration of disagreement" to join the march.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was earlier slammed for saying he would not attend so as not to "offend" the Holy City's religious public.  

Several members of an ultra-right religious organization protested nearby against what they call "the abomination parade."

"We stand strong for traditional marriage, preserving family sanctity and giving every child an opportunity to have a father and mother," read one of the signs held by a Lehava demonstrator.

Hundreds of police, in uniform and undercover, were securing the route.

In a first, people were not allowed to enter the march at any point along the route, but could join only at the main starting point - Jerusalem's Bell Park, where marchers queued in order to be individually searched.

Earlier Thursday, police announced that they were bringing new charges against an extremist Jew who is serving a life sentence for fatally stabbing Banki and injuring six others at Jerusalem's 2015 gay parade.

Yishai Schlissel was conspiring from within jail to harm marchers at this year's gay parade, Samri said, adding that Schlissel's brother Michael was arrested on Wednesday.

After serving a 10-year sentence for stabbing and injuring participants in Jerusalem's 2005 gay pride parade, Schlissel was released three weeks before the 2015 event in which he killed Banki.

Police were doing everything they could to avoid a repeat of what at the time was criticized as a "major failure." Measures included issuing restraining orders against several people opposed to the parade.

Several gay activists who had spray-painted slogans along the route overnight, including "21.7.16. I'm here to stay" and "Not afraid," had also been detained. 

Organizers said they hoped that double the usual number of 5,000 would attend the march to honour Banki's memory.

Attendees brought flowers to lay down at the site of last year's stabbing.

The Israeli military announced earlier this week that it would "re-evaluate" its professional relationship with a West Bank rabbi who in the run-up to the parade called homosexuals "perverts."

The rabbi heads a yeshiva, or religious seminary, that prepares young men for army service.

But by Thursday, some 300 rabbis had signed a letter expressing support for their colleague and condemning what they called an attempt to "shut the mouths" of those speaking out against "a lifestyle that goes against human morality and the way of the Torah."

Tel Aviv's gay parade - the largest in the Middle East - drew 200,000 people in June. Its more modest Jerusalem counterpart, which religious groups condemn as the "abomination parade," usually attracts several thousand.

Last update: Thu, 21/07/2016 - 20:49

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