JERUSALEM – One year after a teenage girl was murdered by a Jewish extremist at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, police announced they are leaving nothing to chance at Thursday’s annual march in the capital.
Police said they will deploy multiple units to the parade to prevent tragedies like the murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki from occurring again. Last year, Yishai Schlissel, the ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed Banki and six others, infiltrated the march with “unconscionable ease,” the court said at Schlissel’s sentencing.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, “hundreds of police officers, Border Guard officers, undercover officers, reinforcements, and volunteers, led by Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, will be deployed to oversee the procession.”
“They will also monitor the surrounding streets to keep the participants safe, maintain public order, and ensure the route of the march remains smooth,” Samri said.
She added that no one will be allowed to enter the premises carrying weapons of any kind and that from the start of the march until it ends no one will be allowed to leave or enter without passing through security.
“Undercover and uniformed police officers will act firmly against anyone who tries to violate the order and the proper course of the parade,” Samri added.
Tom Canning, the deputy director of LGBT rights organization Open House Jerusalem, told the Jerusalem Post that Banki’s murder sent shockwaves through the LGBT community.
“Last year after the tragic events of the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, the community faced a very difficult situation in terms of the trauma that we experienced, and the bubble of our sense of security, which was burst,” he said.
“Everyone who was there and was nearly victimized themselves; for us, they are still victims. They may not have physical wounds, but they do have emotional wounds that they will carry for the rest of their lives.”
Canning said hatred towards the community continues to be expressed by extremist religious groups, like the rightwing Lehava. Citing its head, Benzi Gopstein, Canning said: “He called the LGBT community the bottom of the bucket, the filth of society – and called in a very clever and hidden way for violence against the Jerusalem Pride Parade.”
Canning said Lehava plastered posters throughout Jerusalem exonerating Schlissel for his crimes last year.
He expressed his disappointment that the rightwing group will be allowed to hold a counter protest near the parade route.
“They are going to be separated from us, but they are going to be right across the street – as usual, inciting violence and spreading homophobia,” he said.
Some rabbis, however, have expressed support for the parade. Rabbi Yehoshua Looks, a fellow at the David Cardoza Think Tank, wrote an oped in Medium saying that while his “acceptance does not cross over to what may or may not happen behind the bedroom door,” his presence at the march is to “protest against violence, in any form, against the LGBTQ community.”
“I am also expressing my belief that to create a better world, we need to be able to talk and walk together,” he added.