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  02 Jul 2022, 23:10

London marks 50 years of Pride

 LONDON, July  2, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - London on Saturday celebrated the 50th 
anniversary of its first Pride parade, marking half a century of progress in 
the fight for equality and tolerance but with warnings that more still needs to 
be done.

 Several hundred people took part in the first march on July 1, 1972, just 
five years after homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK.

Fifty years on, more than 600 LGBTQ+ groups danced, sang and rode floats 
along a similar route to the original protest, in the first Pride since the 
coronavirus pandemic, watched by huge cheering crowds.

 London Mayor Sadiq Khan told reporters the event, which organisers said was 
the "biggest and most inclusive" in its history, was a celebration of 
community, unity and progress.

 But he said it was also a reminder of the need to "campaign and never be 
complacent" and the need for "an open, inclusive, accepting world".

"We saw this time last week an attack in Oslo just hours before that 
parade, where two people lost their lives and more than 20 were injured," he 
said.
 "So, we've got to be conscious of the fact that there's still a danger to 
this community of discrimination, bias and violence."
       
Khan's predecessor as mayor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said it gave him 
"the greatest pride to lead a country where you can love whomever you choose to 
love and where you can be free to be whoever you want to be".
       
The 50th anniversary was a "milestone", he said, paying tribute to the 
bravery of those who did it first.
       
Peter Tatchell, a veteran gay rights campaigner who took part in the 1972 
march, said some from the original event have boycotted the modern-day 
sponsored version as "depoliticised and commercialised".
      
 "But we believe that on this 50th anniversary of Pride it is important to 
have GLF (Gay Liberation Front) and 1972 Pride veterans head the parade," he 
added. 
       
       - Campaigning -
       
       
In 1972, "Gay Pride", as it was then known, was a demand for visibility and 
equality against a backdrop of lingering prejudice, discrimination and fear 
among many gay men and women about coming out.
      
 In the 1980s, Pride became a focal point for campaigning against 
legislation by prime minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government 
against the "promotion of homosexuality" in schools.
       
It also helped to raise awareness and support for people with HIV/Aids.
      
 Now, with the rainbow flag of inclusion and tolerance spread ever more 
widely over the spectrum of human sexuality and gender, Pride in London is more 
celebration than protest.
      
 Veterans of the 1972 march, though, held banners proclaiming they were 
"still fighting for global LGBT+ freedoms".
      
 Padraigin Ni Raghillig, president of Dykes on Bikes London, a motorcycle 
club for gay women, said the event retained part of its original campaigning 
spirit.
      
 "It's still important, I think, to at least once a year to be out and 
about, and to say 'we're here, we're queer, and we're not going shopping'," 
said Ni Raghillig, astride a Harley Davidson.
      
 Stephen Sanders, 54, who attended the parade wearing nothing but an apron 
and his underwear, said the parade was still relevant.
      
 "People ask, 'is Pride still important?' Yes, so very important. Still 
people today that can't march, that can't be who they are, that are either 
stoned or killed for it," he said.
       
This year's Pride saw warnings for people with monkeypox symptoms to stay 
away, after public health officials said many cases in the UK were reported 
among gay and bisexual men.
      
 LGBTQ+ campaign group Stonewall said everyone had a part to play to stop 
the spread of monkeypox, which is passed through close contact regardless of 
sexual orientation. 


 

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