Supreme Court supports police in blocking Be’er Sheva Pride from main route
After hearing from representatives of the LGBT community and local police force, the High Court of Justice decided to allow changing the route of the first Be’er Sheva Pride Parade to a less central path, due to threats from those opposing it; ‘There is no reason to accept the statement that such threats would go away if the parade were to be moved to a less central route,’ says LGBT organization.
The High Court of Justice rejected on Wednesday a petition submitted by the Israeli National LGBT Taskforce (also known as the Aguda) and Pride House (a local Be’er Sheva LGBT center), requesting that Be’er Sheva’s first ever Pride parade be allowed to march through Be’er Sheva’s Rager Boulevard, which acts as the city’s main artery.
The original, central route for the parade was verbally agreed upon, with the police giving its consent for it to run through the Old City, continue to Rager Boulevard and end in front of City Hall.
Further confirmation to the police’s previous agreement on the route was presented on Wednesday when an audio recording of Be’er Sheva Police's chief, Commander Effi Shiman, was heard saying that the parade would take place through Be’er Sheva’s main street, repeatedly stating that “A promise is a promise.”
Despite this, Shiman has recently announced that he has had a change of heart, saying that allowing the parade to go on through the city’s main route would “seriously impede daily life and religious sensitivities.”
After Southern District Police Commander Deputy Commissioner David Bitan refused to grant the parade organizers a license to march, the Aguda and Pride House demanded to know his reasons. The police responded by stating that it had received information that there is a chance that there would be violence at the parade and that it had also heard from some of the protestors, whose apparent concern for their own safety led the police to direct the parade to a less central course.
“There is a very real, almost definite chance that people would be harmed if the parade marches down Rager Boulevard,” the police’s official statement read, before saying the police force could do a better job of protecting them if the march were to be carried out through a less central route.
In Wednesday’s court decision, Justices Salim Joubran, Anat Baron and Hana Melcer stated, “After weighing the overall considerations, we have been convinced that the information presented before us justifies a partial deviation from the Rager route that had formerly been approved on principal by the police.” The justices went on to say, “We believe the change does not detract from the petitioners’ right to protest or freedom of expression,” citing that the relegation to a less central route “is a balance that acknowledges the need to be responsible for public safety and order.”
The court explained that what convinced them to have the parade deviate from the originally agreed upon route was “the intel that was presented before us.” They suggested that one of the alternative routes for the march presented by the police could be adopted, such as one that would have the parade begin in a nursing home parking lot. In any case, the parade will only be allowed to take place if the petitioners officially stated their approval of one of the authorized routes before Shiman by 9:00 pm.
The justices concluded, “We hope the parade and gathering will be peaceful and permit the expression of such basic rights that events like these allow for, while upholding mutual respect.”
Prior to the court decision, the Aguda issued a statement, saying “It is preposterous that in 2016 there is still an insistence to usher the gay community through side streets instead of having them walk through the main streets. This is particularly true in Be’er Sheva, where no budget has ever been allocated to the gay community, nor has the city ever held a Pride parade.” The Aguda continued by calling out the police, saying, “If there are threats, the police should handle them in side streets and major ones. There is also no reason to accept the statement that such threats would go away if the parade were to be moved to a less central route.”
Update: Following the Court's decision, Pride House in Be'er Sheva has decided not to march and instead to perform a protesst rally in front of City Hall. A statement issued to the press said that "Today's Supreme Court decision has taught us all that lies, pollitics, threats, homophobia and violence are encouraged. Today we learned that the lives of LGBTs in Be'er Sheva and throughout Israel will not be protected by the police. Today we learned that the Be'er Sheva Municipality has abandoned us in favor of wheeling and dealing done in dark corridors. Our struggle is not over, but rather it has only begun."