Czech Republic: Prague Pride attended by 17 000, including Roma
The LGBT pride parade that marched through Prague from Wenceslas Square to the Letná Park on Saturday, 16 August was attended by anywhere between 15 000 and 17 000 well-wishers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community, a slight decline from last year's numbers. Bohdana Rambousková, speaking on behalf of the organizers, told the Czech News Agency that the lower attendance was evidently influenced by the weather.
Romani people were featured on one of the parade floats. Police officers had to handle 15 minor misdemeanors during the march, most having to do with efforts to block the parade.
The parade began on Wenceslas Square. It was led by a crowd of people carrying a caricature of Russian President Vladimir Putin on behalf of the LBGT community in Russia.
The head of the march also featured banners drawing attention to discrimination against LGBT people in another 76 countries around the world. It was followed by floats on which people in multicolored costumes were dancing.
Many participants draped themselves in the traditional rainbow flag. One of the floats featured Romani men and women.
Some of the Romani people in the parade were wearing t-shirts in the style of the Romani flag and one participant waved a Romani flag. Everyone was dancing to the rhythm of modern Romani songs.
As in previous years, a large part of the parade was comprised of straight people who wanted to show their opposition to homophobia. Small groups of young people were seen wearing rainbow-striped clothing and carrying signs saying that while they are "hetero", they support LGBT people.
The event was also taken advantage of by several political parties to reach out to voters by espousing openness toward sexual minorities. Representatives of Social Democratic Youth marched in the parade, while in the Letná Park members of the Pirate Party handed out leaflets and the Green Party had a stand there.
The Hotel Intercontinental flew the rainbow flag in honor of the event. The front section of the parade also included approximately 30 staff members of the US Embassy, including Steve Kashkett, Deputy Chief of Mission.
All of the US Embassy staff wore t-shirts specially made to support the parade. People began to gather in the center of Prague before noon, including many foreigners and young well-wishers from other regions of the Czech Republic, such as Ostrava.
While some of the marchers could only be distinguished from ordinary tourists by the fact that they were holding hands with someone of the same sex, others came to the square in colorful, imaginative costumes. People photographed one another and shared their photos instantly through online social networks.
While waiting for the parade to begin, people danced on the square and loudly welcomed the floats as they arrived. One was decked out with palm trees and featured several young men wearing naval t-shirts having a good time.
Marchers also drew attention to the dangers of the HIV virus. The parade ended at the Letná Park, where a program of entertainment and music was planned to last until the evening.
Thirty conservatives and neo-Nazis protest
About 30 opponents of the march gathered at the statue of St. Václav as well. Even though their assembly had not been announced to the authorities, organizers said they were not breaking the law because their gathering was religious in nature.
Among the opponents of the march was Vlastimil Pechanec, who was recently paroled from serving a 17-year sentence for the racially motivated murder of a Romani man at a discotheque in the Czech town of Svitavy. Later two people with a loudspeaker chimed in among the marchers, verbally attacking LGBT people.
The pair threatened those celebrating in the parade that they "would burn in the flames of Hell". Some of the marchers shouted vulgar remarks back.
Prior to the start of the parade, police officers arrested three people on suspicion of intending to disrupt the event. Another 12 misdemeanors had to be addressed during the parade itself for similar reasons.
People attempted to block the parade from proceeding along the Dvořák Embankment. "Nothing dramatic occurred, there were no greater difficulties," police spokesperson Jan Daněk told the Czech News Agency.
Prague Pride less extravagant this year
This year's parade was less extravagant and calmer than last year's event, according to participants. Many welcomed the change.
"I have the feeling that the people who came this year were a bit more civilized. There's less exhibitionism here, people are more normal. I'm pleased about that," a woman named Daniela told the Czech News Agency.
Her partner Hanka agreed - they had just taken advantage of a 24-hour "test" marriage offered by the parade organizers to same-sex couples. The women have been planning for several years to conclude a registered partnership and today's "test" was designed to help them decide whether that would be the right step for them.
Another woman named Lenka expressed appreciation for the atmosphere of this year's Prague Pride. "It seems calmer to me. There isn't so much hype around it and it's more natural," she noted.
Lenka said the parade had been more like a carnival last year and that more people had worn masks. "It might be because of the weather," she speculated.
This is the fourth time the parade has taken place in Prague. It was first held in 2011 when 8 000 people attended; last year 20 000 people participated.
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