By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, July 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Holding
banners and shouting slogans of defiance, thousands of LGBT+
people took to the streets of London on Saturday to protest
against the perceived commercialisation of Britain's official
annual Pride march.
As the first ever Reclaim Pride march curled past Britain's
iconic Palace of Westminster, marchers said they had come to
protest about the state of LGBT+ rights in the country,
particularly for those within the transgender community.
"We are seeing ... increased amounts of transphobic articles
(in the media)," said Natalie June-Whitaker, a 22-year-old
degree apprentice in IT consulting, as people milled in central
London's Parliament Square before the march began.
"(They are) attacking innocent trans people and increasing
anti-trans rhetoric, which affects real people's everyday
lives," June-Whitaker said.
Last year, the British government scrapped a proposed reform
that would have let trans people legally change gender without a
Marchers also called for more diversity and efforts to
tackle racism both within and outside the LGBT+ community.
"We're here to say that Pride is about inclusion," said
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director of UK Black Pride,
Europe's largest LGBT+ celebration for people of colour, which
attracted about 15,000 people in 2019.
"It's about diversity, about speaking truth to power on a
number of different issues for our trans non-binary siblings
(and) for Black Lives Matter," Opoku-Gyimah told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation amid the sound of whistles and cheering.
London's official Pride march is slated to be held in
September this year, after coronavirus restrictions forced the
parade off the streets in 2020.
The Reclaim Pride march joins similar movements around the
world expressing frustration that annual celebrations of LGBT+
rights have become over-commercialised parties rather than a
chance to protest against inequality.
"We are not a trend for Pride month, we deserve visibility
all year," read one banner in London.
New York hosted its first Queer Liberation March in 2019,
which organisers said was "a people's political march", held
without corporate sponsorship and police barricades.
"We want to say that our human rights should be central,"
said veteran human rights activist Peter Tatchell, one of the
organisers of Saturday's march. "As well as a celebration, Pride
has to be a protest."
The first ever Pride march was held in the wake of the 1969
Stonewall riots in the United States, when the LGBT+ community
fought back against a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New
York, sparking the birth of the modern-day rights movement.
Last year saw a slew of LGBT+ events around the world
cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, from a gay
Pride march in Romania to a Thai dance party.
Concerns remain about a third wave of infections, but this
year many countries around the world have planned in-person
WorldPride, one of the world's biggest parades, which drew
an estimated 5 million people marching in New York in 2019, will
hold a scaled-down event in Copenhagen in August.
Londoners said they were glad to be back on the streets,
both celebrating and protesting.
"It's good to be back again and good to be (back) with pride
too," said 86-year-old Maureen Marshall, who has been attending
Pride for nearly three decades.
(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Zoe
Tabary. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of
people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.