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Under heavy police security, thousands march in Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem

The march, which began at at Liberty Bell Park under heavy police protection, marks three years since an ultra-Orthodox zealot stabbed a teenage marcher to death and wounded several others.

Thousands of people take part in the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on Aug. 2, 2018. Photo By Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Thousands of people take part in the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on Aug. 2, 2018. Photo By Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Amid tensions and mass protests over equal surrogacy rights for gay couples in Israel, tens of thousands of people marched on Thursday afternoon in what is being billed as the largest-ever Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.

The march, which began at Liberty Bell Park under heavy police protection, marks three years since an ultra-Orthodox zealot, Yishai Schlissel, stabbed teenage marcher Shira Banki to death and wounded several others.

Organizers said an estimated 30,000 people joined the march, which ended at Independence Park after winding its way down Keren Hayesod, Hillel and Moshe Ben Yisrael streets.

Some 2,500 police officers were deployed to guard the parade, including Border Police and plainclothes officers. Police restricted entry points to the march and performed security checks.

Activists say there was a rise in anti-LGBT activity ahead of the parade. Earlier this week, a memorial to Banki was vandalized. On Tuesday, a man said he was attacked for walking around with a gay-pride flag. Last week, anti-gay graffiti was scrawled near the spot where Banki was killed.

“In the face of the hatred and fear that has led to violence and murder, we refuse to be silent,” the Jerusalem Open House, which organized the march, said in a statement. “Despite these tragedies, we will march on with pride and demand our equal rights against all of those who try to stop and humiliate us.”

Police gave permits to two groups to protest the march: the ultra-nationalist Lehava group, which held a protest near the start of the route; and the Orthodox group Liba, which demonstrated against the event at the entrance to Jerusalem.

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