Madrid boosts security for WorldPride

2017-06-23 17:08
A young woman displays a rainbow flag in Madrid's Chueca district. (PIierre-Philippe Marcou, AFP)

A young woman displays a rainbow flag in Madrid's Chueca district. (PIierre-Philippe Marcou, AFP)

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Madrid - Madrid increased security on Friday for the start of WorldPride 2017, one of the biggest celebrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights which hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.

The 10-day celebration culminates with a huge parade on July 1 down the Paseo del Prado, one of the Spanish capital's central avenues, which in itself could attract "up to one million people," according to Madrid's Cogam LGBT Collective, one of the organisers.

Overall, city hall plans for more than two million people to attend events over the 10 days, including the annual "drag race", an international human rights conference and open-air concerts, in the capital of 3.1 million inhabitants.

The WorldPride, which kicked off overnight with a cabaret show, takes place against a background of high tension across Europe, which has been hit by a string of attacks.

Authorities are reluctant to make public the security measures they are implementing but an interior ministry source, who refused to be identified by name, said at least 2 000 officers would reinforce Madrid's usual contingent to monitor roofs, underground parking and entries to various sites.

Organisers have said "emergency lanes" will be created in busy places to allow for possible evacuations, as well as traffic restrictions, bag searches and mobile medical units.

Jesus Grande, Cogam's president, said a large fireworks display planned for the closing ceremony on July 2 had been cancelled by authorities.

Authorities fear the noise could cause a panic like the one in Turin, Italy, this month, which saw one person die and more than 1 500 hurt after fireworks sparked a stampede among Juventus fans who feared a bomb attack while watching the Champions League final.

The La Razon conservative daily reported Thursday that security forces would implement "24-hour surveillance of the most radical jihadist 'targets' living in Madrid and nearby," covering 200 to 300 people.

For the past two years, Spain, the third most popular tourist destination in the world, has been on high terror alert.

While it has been spared in the wave of recent jihadist-inspired attacks in Europe, it was hit in March 2004 by bombings on commuter trains in Madrid that left 191 people dead.

Read more on:    spain  |  gay rights

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