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Parades and Marches  
 
page: 1  2  3  

The march was also, according to Michael Brown, one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front, "an affirmation and declaration of our new pride."

Stonewall-anniversary marches have been held every subsequent year, and the event has evolved into New York's annual Gay Pride Parade. The mayor and other city leaders now routinely march in the parade, which has featured an extremely wide variety of interest groups, including participants in the Stonewall uprising, the Radical Faeries, S&M advocates, Log Cabin Republicans, drag queens, athletes, theological students, supportive parents and friends of glbtq people, and military veterans.

Sponsor Message.

Police officers from New York's Gay Officers Action League have become regular participants in the parade. In 1999 an active-duty member of the Fire Department marched for the first time. Gay firefighter Tom Ryan was accompanied by Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, who pledged to create a more positive attitude within the department.

In 2002 a group of gay and lesbian police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel were chosen as grand marshals to honor their services in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001.

Stonewall 25

The 1994 march, called Stonewall 25, was the occasion of both visibility and controversy.

Marking the quarter-century anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, it coincided with New York's hosting of the Gay Games, drawing more media attention than usual to the event. Organizers planned a spectacular display. A mile-long rainbow flag was made for the parade and borne along the route by people who had donated to AIDS charities for the privilege.

Various debates about the parade arose. The community protested the official title of Stonewall 25 as a "Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Event."

Some worried that the more flamboyant elements of the parade, such as people in skimpy costumes, outrageous drag queens, and leather fetishists, could present a distorted image of the community and play into the hands of those promoting a homophobic political agenda.

"I can't stop anyone from dressing bizarrely and parading around New York City, but do we have to put them at the head of our parade?" asked Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. He went on, however, to sum up the dilemma of the situation, saying, "in the gay community we've been doing two things at once: fighting for our rights and celebrating our cultural freedom."

In addition to the official Stonewall 25 parade, there was also a march organized by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), intended primarily as a political demonstration to call for a stronger response to the fight against AIDS. Denied a parade permit, the group marched anyway. The two parades eventually met, and, as New York Times reporter Janny Scott put it, "converged in a vast river of humanity" as they continued to their destination, Central Park.

Other North American Pride Parades

Many other North American cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver boast large annual pride parades, generally in June to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion. (A few cities, such as New Orleans, hold annual pride events at other times.)

Many of these parades have been annual events since the early 1970s and their growth has been paradigmatic of the development of the glbtq movement into a mass movement for equality.

For example, the Chicago parade began in June 1970, when an "unofficial" parade culminated a pride week organized by Gay Liberation, Mattachine Midwest, and Women's Caucus. Denied a parade permit, some 150 protesters marched along the city's sidewalks, demonstrating against the injustices suffered by glbtq people. The next year the 150-person demonstration had evolved into a 1,200-person parade. Now the Chicago pride parade routinely attracts more than 200,000 participants.

The West Hollywood parade usually attracts around 400,000 participants. It has become the third largest parade of any kind in Southern California, smaller only than the Tournament of Roses and Christmas parades.

Among the best known summer celebrations is San Francisco's Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day parade, an event that was inaugurated in 1971. The San Francisco parade draws hundreds of thousands of participants. The 2002 procession had 184 official contingents, including groups committed to fighting AIDS, breast cancer, and homophobia, a group of lesbian mothers and their children, and a trailer full of Bears Clubs members.

The parade was led in typical fashion by Dykes on Bikes, a contingent of over a thousand motorcyclists. They were followed by several dozen male bicycle riders who dubbed themselves "Mikes on Bikes" and all wore tags saying "Hi, my name is Mike."

The San Francisco parade has become one of the largest annual celebrations in the country.

Another important celebration on the North American continent is Toronto's Lesbian and Gay Pride day, which regularly attracts almost 1,000,000 participants.

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