Sunday, 18 August 2019

Pride Parade gets 40,000 marchers

By Raymond Johnston | Prague Daily Monitor |
15 August 2016

The annual Prague Pride parade on Aug. 13 saw some 40,000 participants, according to preliminary estimates from the Czech Police as well as a private security firm. If confirmed, this would be a record for the event. There were very few counter protesters, just a few stray individuals with signs, and no reported clashes. This was the sixth annual parade, the first one in 2011 had some 7,000 participants and it has grown more or less each year, depending on the weather.
While most people missed it, at the end of this year's parade there was a tribute to the victims of the massacre at an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida. A sign saying “We are Orlando” hung from the bridge Čechův most, and 49 black balloons, one for each victim, were released as the parade approached the entry to Letná Park.
The parade, which began in Wenceslas Square and ended in Letná, was headed by Omar Sharif Jr, the grandson of the famous actor. The younger Sharif has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights in the Middle East.
Following him in a separate car were two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of gay men and trans women who wear flamboyant versions of nuns' habits but also do a lot of charitable outreach to for the gay and trans community, as well as the homeless and those afflicted with HIV. Sister Roma and Sister Vish before and after the parade were available for selfies. Sister Roma claims to be the most photographed nun in the world. The two nuns came from San Fransisco.
The lead banner of the parade said (in Czech) “I love _____,” which was one of the themes of this year's Pride Week.
Marching unofficially in front of the parade — between the police vanguard and the first banner — was a man in a Batman costume. Whether he had any message or just simply enjoyed a good parade was not clear.
Another prominent vehicle in the parade was from the US Embassy. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro and other embassy staff gave out flags, pins, beads, roses and candy to people at the start of the parade and along the route. He and other volunteers sported shirts saying that LGBT rights are human rights. At the party at Letná the staff distributed a quiz of LGBT milestones, and gave out pins and similar prizes.
Some Czech political parties also had a big presence in the parade. The Greens and the Pirates both had contingents behind banners and carried signs showing support of LGBT issues and rights. A group marching under an anarchist red banner with a raised fist had signs calling for free love, not a free market.
The NGO Amnesty International had people with signs calling for more respect of human rights.
Several companies also had a prominent presence including tech firms Microsoft and IBM and PR firm Ogilvy. Local gay-friendly establishments like Erra Cafe had a visible presence. Signs could be seen from foreign groups coming from Germany and Norway, among other places.
Religious people who were pro-LGBT had a large presence this year, with signs saying the two ideas did not have to be contradictory.
Most people, however, marched in small groups of friends with signs carrying their own messages about LGBT rights. Wearing a rainbow flag as a cape was a popular accessory this year, even more so than in previous years. Flower garlands also were visible, with one small group turning it into a Hawaiian theme with a ukelele. Several dogs also sported rainbow flower necklaces and seemed to enjoy the excitement even if the issues were over their heads a bit.
Perhaps because the turnout was even higher than last year, the percentage of flamboyantly dressed or underdressed people seemed small compared to those in regular street clothes with some rainbow decoration. A few people had leather animal masks, and small handful wore outfits of leather straps and metal rings. There was a Conchita Wurst impersonator and handful of old-school drag queens with elaborate wigs and makeup. Signs offering free hugs were prominent.
The parade ended with a party in Letná Park, with two stages and a ring of stands offering everything form food and beverages to free and confidential HIV testing.
Pride Week did not end with the parade. There was a picnic on Sunday, Aug. 14, and some other final events.