The streets of London were filled with color on Saturday to mark 50 years of Britain’s capital,
A lively crowd of hundreds of thousands turned out to either take part in or watch the festivities, creating a spectacle of rainbow flags, glitter and sequins.
After two years of cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parade’s first march to celebrate Pride in 1972 marks the end of the half-century of the parade.
Saturday’s procession started outside Hyde Park and followed the same route as the original route towards Westminster. This was to be followed by a concert in Trafalgar Square.
Chris Joel-DeShields, director of Pride organizers in London, said “significant” rights and freedoms had been earned since the opening ceremony, “but there is more to be done”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan hailed a “beautiful day” of “unity, visibility, equality and solidarity” as he attended the ceremony.
More than 600 LGBTQ groups were expected to participate in the march, led by members of the Gay Liberation Front from the 1972 protests.
Organizations ranging from charities to universities to emergency services were also represented.
But the uniformed officers of London’s Metropolitan Police force were not among them, as has been the case in previous years.
The move came in response to concerns raised by LGBTQ campaigners over their belief in policing, particularly the quality of the police force’s investigation into the killings by convicted serial killer Stephen Port. In 2016, Port was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murders of four young gay men he had met online.
Members of the police force were able to voluntarily join the march on Saturday.
“I think the police has been sensitive to the issues raised by the community,” Khan said. “And there will be officers in uniform 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 March, with cases of the virus across the UK. Britain’s Health Protection Agency had issued a similar warning to people showing possible symptoms of monkeypox.