Massive turnout for gay pride march in Jerusalem 1 year after fatal stabbing | News | DW | 22.07.2016
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Massive turnout for gay pride march in Jerusalem 1 year after fatal stabbing

The large turnout was a show of solidarity with the victim's of last year's stabbing attack that left Shira Banki dead. The 16-year-old was one of eight people ultra-orthodox extremist Yishai Schlissel tried to kill.

A record number of Gay Pride marchers paraded through downtown Jerusalem Thursday, a year after an ultra-Orthodox Jew went on a stabbing rampage at the parade that left a 16-year-old girl dead and seven others wounded.

Some 25,000 attended this year's parade - a five-fold increase over last year's turnout, and far more than organizers hoped for.

Security was very tight as some 2,000 police were on duty to ensure safety. Marchers were not allowed to join the parade along the route but had to go to the parade's starting point to pass through a security check.

Ultra-Orthodox extremists view the parade as an "abomination" and vehemently protested against it.

Conservative Jerusalem's Gay Pride parades are far more modest affairs than in liberal Tel Aviv, which last month drew 200,000 people.

Ultra-Orthodox extremist Yishai Schlissel, 41, was convicted of last year's attack. But even while serving a life sentence he was plotting another attack on this year's march. Police took him from his cell for questioning, and his brother was arrested on Wednesday as an accomplice.

"We have thwarted and prevented attempts to harm people during the march. The march will take place as planned and without change," said Jerusalem district police commander Yoram Halevi.

"Yishai Schlissel had planned, with his brother Michael Schlissel, to attack march participants," according to a police statement.

A man waves a rainbow flag at a protest rally after a deadly attack on a Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.

Protesting the stabbing death of 16-year-old Shira Banki

But the Schlissels weren't the only ones planning attacks. Police said 30 other people also had plans to attack the marchers but they were arrested, several of them in possession of knives.

A serial homophobe

Schlissel's attack came just weeks after being released from prison where he served a 10-year sentence for a stabbing rampage at the 2005 Gay Pride Parade.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has come under fire for his decision not to attend the pride parade because, he said, it "offends the (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) public and the national-religious public".

Imri Kalmann, co-chair of Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, was scathing in his criticism.

"I think it is cowardice," he said. "He is not doing it because this is his opinion. He is doing it because he wants to please voters."

Meanwhile the Israeli military has decided to "re-evaluate" its professional relationship with a West Bank rabbi who called homosexuals "perverts." The rabbi leads a yeshiva, or religious seminary, that prepares men for army service.

But by Thursday, some 300 rabbis had signed a letter supporting their colleague while condemning what they say is an attempt to "shut the mouths" of those speaking out against "a lifestyle that goes against human morality and the way of the Torah."

bik/kl/jd (AP, AFP, dpa)

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