Hundreds of thousands marched through the streets of London on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the first British Pride Parade, filling the streets of the British capital with colour.
A bustling crowd moved in to join in or watch the festivities, forming a spectacle of rainbow flags, sparkles and glitter. After two years of cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parade came half a century after Britain’s first Pride march 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 Mayor of London’s office said more than a million revelers attended the celebrations, which also included a concert in Trafalgar Square.
Chris Joell-Deshields, the director of Pride organizers in London, said “significant” rights and freedoms had been won since the inaugural event, “but there is still a long way to go”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan hailed a “great day” of “unity, visibility, equality and solidarity” as he joined in the celebrations.
More than 600 LGBTQ groups were due to take part in the march, led by members of the Gay Liberation Front from the 1972 protest.
Organizations ranging from charities to universities to emergency services were also represented. But uniformed officers from London’s Metropolitan Police were not among them, as they have been in previous years.
The move came in response to LGBTQ activists who were concerned about their trust in the police, in particular the quality of the police investigation into the murders committed by serial killer Stephen Port. In 2016, Port was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of four young gay men 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 responsive to the 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 had been asked to take a COVID-19 test before the march with cases of the virus on the rise across Britain. The UK Health Safety Agency had issued a similar warning for people with possible symptoms of monkeypox.