JERUSALEM, June 25 (UPI) -- A heavy police presence was deployed in Jerusalem's streets ahead of the city's annual gay pride parade.
For the first time in eight years, leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish communities announced they will refrain from demonstrating against the parade, Ynetnews.com reported Thursday.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has also said he will not participate in the parade, citing the ongoing issue concerning the opening of the Jerusalem car park on the Sabbath, which is keeping him busy.
The mayor's refusal to participate drew harsh criticism from members of the capital's gay community who told the Web site, "votes from members of our community also helped to get the mayor elected ... . He should represent everyone."
Parade organizers told the site they expect more than 5,000 to take part in the parade which was to kick off in late afternoon. Israeli police officials announced 1,500 officers will secure the parade route to ensure the event runs smoothly.