Middle East News
Jerusalem Gay Pride parade begins amid protests (1st Lead)
Jun 21, 2007, 15:11 GMT
Jerusalem - Thousands of members of Israel's gay community marched down Jerusalem's King David Street Thursday afternoon, protected by thousands of police there to safeguard the event from demonstrations by ultra-Orthodox Jews opposed to it taking place in the holy city.
Although organizers of the event had expected some 5,000 marchers, police said around 2,000 people, some carrying defiant signs and banners, walked slowly and calmly down the 500-metre route, under arches of balloons in the colours of the gay rainbow flag.
Rainbow flags also hung from lampposts along the route.
Despite the police presence, some protestors managed to infiltrate the route, but were removed before they could cause any major disruptions.
One ultra-Orthodox demonstrator, who Israel Radio said 'disguised' himself by carrying the rainbow flag, began cursing the marchers, but was removed by police, as was a protestor armed with eggs he intended hurling at the parade.
Police had earlier in the day arrested an ultra-Orthodox Jew carrying a very small homemade explosive which he had intended to set off to scare people away from the event.
Protestors also burned garbage cans in an utlra-Orthodox neighbourhood in the city, and 1,500 demonstrated at the entrance to Jerusalem against the parade.
The event went ahead after the Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon rejected last-minute petitions against it taking place.
A planned post-parade rally at Jerusalem's Liberty Bell Park, which was to have taken place after the parade, was called off
The parade has aroused the ire of religious Jews, Christians and Muslims, and led opponents to take to the streets to demonstrate against it.
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Israelis demonstrated in Jerusalem late Wednesday, burning garbage containers and throwing stones at police, while hundreds more held similar protests in the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak.
Protests leading up to the parade last year turned violent for days in advance, and leaders of the Jerusalem Open House, which organizes the event, were forced to hold it in a closed stadium far removed from the city centre to ease the tensions.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur