Tens of thousands celebrate gay pride across Europe
July 05, 2004
LONDON — Dancing to the beat of samba music, tens of thousands of people
converged on central London to celebrate Gay Pride on Saturday,
while a similar number marched in the German city of Cologne and
hundreds of thousands were expected at a late-night parade in the
streets of Madrid.
Marchers in London Pride
More than 30 floats were decked out in full colour for London's
festive parade, which set off under bright skies from Hyde Park
towards Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, before continuing
to Trafalgar Square.
A dozen samba bands set the tempo for the parade, which has been
given official status as a street party, rather than a political
rally, for the first time in its three-decade history.
"Thirty-two years ago this was a small demonstration, and now we
have become a major touristic attraction," organiser Jason Pollock
said in an interview with ITV television.
London's first ever Gay Pride march, in 1972, drew just 700
demonstrators, who faced an onslaught of insults from homophobic
He estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 people had turned out for the
parade, which has been dedicated to a Jamaican gay rights activist,
Brian Williamson, stabbed to death in Kingston, Jamaica, last
Today, although the party spirit has largely taken over, the
event remains politically significant.
"It's about being visible," in London "but also in smaller
cities," summed up one young parader, who wore a period costume
complete with powdered wig, in an interview with by Sky News
Paraders included Lord Wahid Ali, the first openly-gay member of
Britain's upper house of parliament, and a delegation of homosexual
police officers, including the deputy-head of the London
Metropolitan police force.
London's mayor Ken Livingstone, who has vowed to strengthen the
fight against homophobia in the capital, told paraders that he was
proud for the city to host the celebration.
Many of the speeches delivered on Saturday focused on a bill
aimed at legalising homosexual unions which went before parliament
in March, rekindling the debate on the legal status of homosexual
couples in Britain.
If passed, the legislation will guarantee gay couples the same
rights as those enjoyed by heterosexual couples by 2010, including
the right to adopt.
Festivities were to wrap up with a giant concert in the north
London district of Finsbury Park, called the Big Gay Out, where
dozens of rock musicians and DJs were to perform until 10:30 pm
The event's new status as street party means its can now look
forward to a mention in London guide books and organisers hope to
widen the parade's appeal to develop it into a major new festival.
But the change also brings extra worries — notably the vastly
increased cost of holding the event, as organisers are asked to
shoulder part of the cost of closing down streets and cleaning up
the morning after.
In the west German city of Cologne — the unofficial capital of
Germany's gay community — tens of thousands of people gathered for
a weekend-long celebration which organisers expect to draw up to
half a million people.
The rally is one of a series of events named Christopher Street
Day, after a street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, the scene of
violent clashes between police and gay activists in 1969, which
marked the birth of the gay rights movement.
Eighty floats were due to parade through the city on Sunday in
the main parade of the event.
In Madrid meanwhile, organisers were gearing up to host up to
300,000 people at an after-dusk Gay Pride carnival – where
revellers will be calling on the new Socialist government to stick
to its campaign pledge to improve gay rights.
Central Madrid was to be cordoned off for the parade, being held
this year under the slogan "The time is right", notably in
reference to a government pledge to legalise gay marriage in the
traditionally Roman Catholic country. – Sapa-AFP
San Francisco gay pride parade now features married couples [28/06/2004]