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london pride

How the first march was organised and why a rainbow flag became such an iconic emblem

In Depth

Friday, July 7, 2017 – 1:30pm

London’s annual Pride Festival parade takes place on Saturday, rounding off a fortnight of events and sparking a series of parades across UK cities this summer.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to march through the city in a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture.

But how did Pride come about? Here’s how the march has moved on from a New York bar to become a worldwide event.

Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, was one of many illegal and underground gay bars frequently raided by police in the 1960s.

Owned by the Mafia, the bar both attracted illicit activity and became an institution in the gay community, making it a prime target for police.

Tired and angered by the raids, patrons fought back when police stormed the inn during the early hours of 28 June 1969.

The Stonewall Riots are hailed as the catalyst for the modern movement for LGBT rights and the bar was later designated a national historic monument.

Over the rainbow

Exactly a year after the Stonewall Riots, protesters gathered in Central Park to campaign for gay liberation. This led to annual “pride parades” across the US and Europe, with London organising its first march in 1972.

The iconic rainbow flag followed years later, after the LGBT movement took on the pink triangle originally used by the Nazis to denote gay people as a symbol of liberation.

Artist Gilbert Baker – aka drag queen Busty Ross –  created the rainbow flag ahead of a San Francisco march in 1978. He dyed thousands of yards of cotton to make the flags, one of which was raised in the United Nations Plaza, reports The Independent.

Baker said the flag was the perfect representation of the LGBT community. “We are a people, a tribe and flags are about proclaiming power,” he told New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Party or protest?

London’s parade is known for its colourful imagery and party atmosphere, leading some critics to argue the parade has lost its purpose as a means of protest

However, in countries where homosexuality is condemned, organising a march remains an act of protest and the global LGBT community continues to do so even when the parade has been banned.

Solidarity

Following the legalisation of gay marriage, London Pride 2014 was a momentous occasion. However, 2016 parade was overshadowed by the shootings in Orlando, Florida, in which at least 50 people werekilled at a gay nightclub.

This year’s Pride marks 50 years since parliament voted to decriminalise homosexuality in the UK. The parade takes place on Saturday, beginning at 1pm on Regent Street.

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