Record 30,000 participants at Jerusalem Pride Parade march for LGBTQ community
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Record 30,000 participants at Jerusalem Pride Parade march for LGBTQ community

Tens of thousands march through the streets of Jerusalem in the annual Pride Parade, Aug. 2, 2018. (Adi Eddy/Courtesy of Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A record crowd estimated at 30,000 or more marched Thursday in support of the LGBTQ community at the Pride Parade in Jerusalem.

Some 2,500 uniformed and plainclothes police officers were mobilized to secure the event through the streets of Israel’s capital.

The march comes a week after more than 60,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv protested the Knesset’s passage of a new surrogacy law that excludes gay couples as well as single men. That demonstration capped off a day of strikes and protests in support of gay surrogacy and the LGBTQ community.

The Pride Parade marchers called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign over the surrogacy law and also carried signs against the nation-state law passed last month.

Police said the crowd for the 17th annual parade could be as high as 35,000 after organizers initially estimated it would be over 20,000 participants. At least 14,000 attended the event last year, up from a few thousand in previous years.

Participants were questioned and searched before being allowed to enter the parade wearing a special bracelet at specified points along the 1.25-mile route from Liberty Bell Park to Independence Park. Several major roads were closed in Jerusalem from about two hours before the march began.

In 2015, a haredi Orthodox man stabbed to death a marcher, Shira Banki, 16, who was attending the parade in support of her LGBTQ  friends. The marchers on Thursday placed flowers on a memorial to Banki set up at the corner where she was murdered.

The march, organized by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, was held under the banner of “Community Heritage: Honoring the Seniors of the Community,” in order to “celebrate the senior individuals and pioneers who have persistently fought for equality, freedom, and human rights of the LGBTQ people in Jerusalem and throughout the country,” the Jerusalem Open House said in a statement. The march also honored Banki’s memory.

At least four counterdemonstrators — members of the extremist Lehava organization — were arrested during the parade.