Outcry after police drug raid on Tel Aviv gay club ahead of Pride week

Municipality official says timing of raid is problematic and harms relations between police and LGBT community; club owners arrested and venue shut down

Police raid a gay sauna in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2019 (Screen grab via Channel 12)
Police raid a gay sauna in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2019 (Screen grab via Channel 12)

Police in Tel Aviv raided a gay club on Friday night and arrested the owner and another worker after drugs were found on the premises.

Fourteen other individuals were briefly detained for questioning and then released, and the venue was immediately shut down.

People present at the time of the raid told Channel 12 news that there were many tourists at the venue on Carlebach Street at the time of the raid, as the city gears up for its annual pride parade next Friday.

Eyewitnesses said four police officers entered the club with a dog and checked the lockers where patrons store their personal belongings. Hebrew-language media reported that the venue was a sauna.

According to police a number of illegal substances were found at the club including, cocaine, crystal meth, marijuana, and ecstasy.

An official from the LGBT community criticized the timing of the police operation.

Etai Pinkas-Arad (Screen grab via YouTube taken on June 8, 2019)

“Without going into the operational considerations of the police, the choice to make such a raid in the middle of pride month and just a week before the Gay Pride parade is categorically the wrong decision,” said Etai Pinkas-Arad, who holds the LGBT portfolio at the Tel Aviv municipality. “It is unnecessary and harms trust between police and the LGBT community.”

Pincas-Arad called for a meeting between police and representatives of the LGBT community “to ensure that there is no intention or plans to harass the community’s entertainment venues, and to ensure that the operational activity does not involve harming the LGBT community’s dignity.”

Some 10,000-15,000 people marched in Jerusalem’s annual pride parade Thursday evening, with over 2,000 police securing the highly charged event four years after a deadly attack on participants.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in Pride Week events and the Tel Aviv Pride Parade, which will be held on June 14.

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