Beersheba pride parade called off after court orders march rerouted
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Beersheba pride parade called off after court orders march rerouted

Justices uphold police recommendation to detour from city's main street over 'credible' threats of violence

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Hundreds of people attend the annual gay pride parade in the southern city of Ashdod on June 17, 2016. (Flash90)
Hundreds of people attend the annual gay pride parade in the southern city of Ashdod on June 17, 2016. (Flash90)

Organizers of Beersheba’s first-ever pride parade canceled the event Wednesday night to protest a High Court of Justice ruling that barred participants from marching through the city’s main thoroughfare.

The city’s Pride House announced a demonstration in front of the Beersheba city hall would take place instead of the planned Thursday march, which police had ordered rerouted over security concerns.

Earlier in the day, the court rejected a petition filed by two non-profit groups protesting a police decision to divert the parade route from Beersheba’s Rager Boulevard, the city’s main artery, citing “credible” threats of violence against participants and concerns of offending the local religious populations.

Police officials urged the court to uphold their decision for an alternate route, saying they could not ensure the safety of all parade participants.

The justices in their decision said classified evidence presented by police justified altering the route, noting that certain groups in opposition to the parade had called for armed supporters to attend the event in protest.

The move came a year after teen Shira Banki was killed and five more people injured by a Jewish religious extremist armed with a knife at a pride parade in central Jerusalem.

The petition to the high court to allow the original parade route was filed earlier this week by the Beersheba Pride House and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who objected to the local LGBT community being relegated to side streets.

After the petition was filed, Beersheba police said its decision was also made to not “offend religious sentiments” in the area, and in consideration of traffic disruptions the march would cause around the Soroka Medical Center.

The pride parade has sparked controversy in Beersheba, the largest city in southern Israel, in recent weeks, as organizers clashed with police, city council members and the municipality.

In previous years, Beersheba’s pride events have been smaller, usually taking place at the city youth center. This year would have marked its first-ever full pride parade.

The municipality, which sponsored pride events at the youth center, refused to sponsor the city-wide parade. City officials last week said the decision was made because activists were planning to protest the limited funding for LGBT programs in the city.

Religious members of the city council threatened to resign from the coalition unless the route was changed. They claimed that while they were not opposed to pride march in theory, they demanded the route be changed so it would not pass by synagogues.

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