WATCH: New York stages huge Gay Pride march, 50 years after Stonewall

2019-07-01 12:00

Throngs of people gathered in the streets of New York on Sunday for a Gay Pride march before an expected crowd of up to three million rainbow-flag-waving supporters, 50 years after the Stonewall riots that galvanized the modern gay rights movement.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a vocal defender of gay rights and a Democratic presidential hopeful, had predicted "the greatest Pride celebration in the history of the globe", and participants were not about to contradict him.

"It is insane how many people are here," said Sam Trip, 22, who came with co-workers from New Jersey.

On a hot, steamy, sunny day, amid the whistles and applause of onlookers, participants marched under the rainbow colors that symbolize the gay community in an event famous for its exotic - and notably skimpy - outfits.

But the flamboyant march had a serious genesis.

Police raids

Stonewall Day commemorates the June 1969 riots sparked by repeated police raids on the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village, that proved to be a turning point in the LGBTQ community's struggle for civil rights.

New York's Gay Pride - a month of events marking Stonewall every year - has long been a lure for tourists, drawing hundreds of thousands of people, plus politicians and celebrities.

Vinicio Albani, 50, who came with his partner from Zurich, Switzerland, said that "with the Trump administration in the US and the rise of all the fascist politics, it's important to fight and to be here".

Critics say Trump's Republican administration has opened the door once again to overt discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Many marchers carried anti-Trump signs, denouncing his policies on everything from transgender rights to immigration.

New York held its first Gay Pride march one year after the Stonewall unrest, kicking off a tradition that would spread to other cities around the world - made all the more pertinent as some 70 countries still criminalise homosexuality today.

This year, organisers went all out in planning what they called World Pride, with visitors from around the globe.

At mid-morning, several thousand took part in the Queer Liberation March organised by the Reclaim Pride Coalition in Greenwich Village - the hub of the city's gay community and the location of Stonewall Inn.

The event was cast as an alternative to the main march, which some activists say has become too commercial for featuring corporate sponsors like L'Oreal, Danone and the Macy's department stores.

High-profile British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said he came from London to participate in the alternate march "to celebrate the radical tradition of Stonewall 1969".

"Our goal was never just equality and LGBT+ rights. I wanted to transform society," he said.

Bennett Sherr, a 20-year-old student at Cornell University, said it was "important that the Pride movement not be so corporatised".

"You see corporations giving money to Pride and then handing millions to anti-LGBT politicians," Sherr said.

Some 150 000 people were signed up to take part in the main rally, but organisers said they expected three million to line the streets and watch.

Police deployed thousands of officers on streets and rooftops, and used drones and helicopters to keep an eye on everything.

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