Thousands participated in the 16th annual LGBTQ pride event in Jerusalem on Thursday, under heavy police protection.
More than 22,000 people gathered in the Liberty Bell Park under the event’s banner of “LGBTQ and Religion,” with dozens of roads closed off in preparation for the parade.
The organizers of the event explained that “in a city that has known bloody wars of religion, we have seen and borne the price of hatred against the backdrop of religion. We will shed light on the complex, deep connections between [various religious groups] and the struggles for partnerships, conflict and dialogue”.
Sara Kala-Meir, who runs the Jerusalem Open House, which organized the march, said that members of the LGBTQ community still suffer from discrimination and degrading treatment mainly due to lack of knowledge and preconceived notions.
“The central theme we chose for this year’s march burns in the hearts of the members of the community of this city and speaks to a wide audience of those who suffered and continue to suffer from insensitivity and degradation because of their sexual orientation,” she said.
During the parade, a demonstration of approximately 50 people took place by the far-right Lehava organization outside a tight police cordon.
Police reported that they had detained 12 people suspected of trying to interrupt the march, including one who had a knife. Police also detained a man posting threats online against participants. After being questioned by officers, a court released the suspect on condition that he stay out of Jerusalem until Friday.
In 2015 Yishai Schlissel, who had just been released from prison for an attack against gay pride marchers in 2005, stabbed 16-year-old Shira Banki to death at the same event.
Organizers asked participants to bring flowers to place at the site where Banki was murdered. Last year’s Jerusalem Pride march was held in honor of Banki and drew some 30,000 people.