Man arrested for threats to Jerusalem Pride organizer referencing murdered teen

Suspect, 21, originally from Europe, allegedly sent death threats referring to 2015 murder of Shira Banki; 2,400 officers deployed for march, 180 potential attackers identified

People at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 3, 2021 look at a photo of Shira Banki, murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist at the march in 2015. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 3, 2021 look at a photo of Shira Banki, murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist at the march in 2015. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A 21-year-old man was arrested late Wednesday for sending death threats to an organizer of the Jerusalem Pride Parade and lawmakers who plan to attend, referencing the murder of a teen at the 2015 event.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the suspect, who has not been identified, is a citizen of a European country but has been in Israel for a number of years.

He is due in court in Jerusalem on Thursday for a hearing on his remand.

The arrest came after a message was sent on Wednesday to Jerusalem Open House community director Emuna Klein Barnoy warning: “We will not allow the Pride Parade to take place in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the Holy City. Shira Banki’s fate awaits you.”

The message was also sent to MKs Gilad Kariv (Labor), Naama Lazimi (Labor) and Eitan Ginzburg (Blue and White).

The threats were sent on Facebook and Twitter from an account under the name of “The brothers of Yishai Schlissel.”

Thousands of people take part in the annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, June 3, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, stabbed 16-year-old Banki to death during the 2015 parade just three weeks after he was released from prison, where he had served an eight-year sentence for a stabbing attack at the same march 10 years earlier.

The lawmakers decried the threats and vowed they would not stop them from marching.

The arrest came as police were on high alert in Jerusalem ahead of Thursday’s parade.

Police said they would be deploying more than 2,400 officers to protect the march and had identified and were monitoring some 180 people who could pose a threat to participants.

At least 20 of the suspects were considered highly likely to try and attack the event, they said.

Activists from the extremist Jewish group Lehava protest against Jerusalem’s pride parade, August 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Pride events in Jerusalem are always tense affairs, with right-wing and religious counterprotests a constant along with a history of deadly violence.

Police instituted a raft of security measures for the march that will see people starting to gather at 3 p.m. at Liberty Bell Park, with the march beginning at 5 p.m., heading up Keren Hayesod and King George streets. The march is set to conclude downtown, at Independence Park, later in the evening.

Access to the march will only be allowed from four designated points along the route where police will be checking participants. No one will be allowed in if carrying a firearm.

In addition, marchers will only be able to exit the route at specific points. Much of downtown Jerusalem will be closed off to traffic.

Heavy security at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, June 3, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

It was not immediately clear how many marchers are expected, with numbers in recent years down due largely to the COVID pandemic. Last year some 7,500 people took part.

Pride marches are held annually in several locations across the country. Tel Aviv puts on the largest evet, with tens of thousands typically attending. It is scheduled to take place this year on June 10.

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