3.000 cops for 3,000 gay demonstrators
By Jonathan Lis
The leaders of the Open House and the thousands of police officers ringing University Stadium in Jerusalem finally relaxed on Friday afternoon. The Gay Pride rally, which drew nearly 3,000 people, went off peacefully. None of the nightmare scenarios of violence against participants were realized.
"The police and the residents of Jerusalem chalked up a very important chapter, and now quiet and sanity are returning to a city that needs them so badly," Jerusalem District Police Commander Ilan Franco said, summing up two weeks of street battles with ultra-Orthodox demonstrators. "A few disturbances of the peace occurred, but they were nothing compared to what was supposed to happen today, in our opinion," Franco said.
The controversial decision by leaders of the Open House to cancel the parade in favor of a rally in a closed stadium is destined to become a significant turning point that will affect their ability to hold parades in the future. "They imprisoned us in the stadium, they damaged the most fundamental basis of the event - visibility - and our ability to march and demonstrate in the streets of Jerusalem," critics of the decision said.
The killings in Beit Hanun in Gaza led to more than 80 warnings of possible terror attacks against Israelis in the past few days. The police feared being compelled to deal with riots on the Temple Mount, terror attacks and violent confrontations between ultra-Orthodox agitators and participants in the Gay Pride march in the capital, all on the same day. "It’s not certain we could have coped with all the scenarios if they had all been realized," a senior police official said.
The announcement by the leaders of the Open House made it possible to hold the rally: Haredi leaders and senior rabbis in the national-religious community acceded to police requests and called off the mass protests that had been planned.
The original security detail, which Franco had called "the biggest in police history" and others had termed "hysterical and disproportionate," was scaled down considerably, from 12,000 police officers flooding the city to 3,000 surrounding the stadium vicinity.