Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first gay pride parade, filling the streets of the British capital with colour.
A vibrant crowd turned out to join in or watch the festivities, forming a spectacle of rainbow flags, glitter and sequins. After two years of cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parade took place half a century after the first British march to celebrate Pride in 1972 in London.
Saturday’s procession took a similar route to the original, starting outside Hyde Park and winding through the streets towards Westminster. The London mayor’s office said more than 1 million revelers turned out for the celebrations, which also included a concert in Trafalgar Square.
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Chris Joell-Deshields, director of organizers Pride in London, said “transcendental” rights and freedoms have been gained since the inaugural event, “but there is more to be done”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan hailed a “beautiful day” of “unity, visibility, equality and solidarity” as he joined the celebrations.
More than 600 LGBTQ groups were expected to take part in the march, led by members of the Gay Liberation Front from the 1972 protest.
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Organizations ranging from charities to universities to emergency services were also represented. But uniformed officers of the London Metropolitan Police were not among them, as has been the case in previous years.
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The move came in response to LGBTQ activists’ concerns about their trust in the police, particularly the quality of the police force’s investigation into the killings by serial killer Stephen Port. In 2016, Port was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murders of four gay youths whom he met online.
Members of the police force were able to join Saturday’s march of their own free will.
“I think the police have been sensitive to issues raised by the community,” Khan said. “And there will be uniformed officers in and around Pride to make sure we’re all safe, to make sure this parade is a success.”
Participants were urged to take a COVID-19 test before the march as cases of the virus are on the rise in Britain. The UK Health Security Agency had issued a similar warning for people showing possible symptoms of monkeypox.
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© 2022 Associated Press