North America

Millions celebrate LGBTIQ+ pride in New York amid global fight for equality

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Advocates say discrimination remains an issue even as millions march in New York and around the world to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.

Millions lined the streets of New York to wave rainbow flags, celebrate the movement toward LGBTQ equality and renew calls for action in what organizers billed as the largest gay pride celebration in history.

Some 150,000 parade marchers and an estimated 4 million spectators commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that triggered the modern LGBTQ movement, with corporate sponsorship and police protection that would have been unthinkable half a century ago.

The Garden State Girls-Women on Wheels club gather before the LGBT Pride March in New York.
The Garden State Girls-Women on Wheels club gather before the LGBT Pride March in New York.
AAP

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

"I believe we are going to have the greatest Pride celebration in the history of the globe," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, a vocal defender of gay rights and a Democratic presidential hopeful.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo marches down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at the World Pride Day parade marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo marches down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at the World Pride Day parade marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
AAP

“It’s hard for us today, but can you even imagine what some of these people went through in the past? There’s no way to thank them,” said Josh Greenblatt, 25, an actor wearing red sunglasses, a white crop top, ripped jeans and gold-heeled boots at the New York event.

Thousands participate in the march every year.
Thousands participate in the march every year.
LightRocket

Greenblatt said he found his outlandish outfit “empowering,” and he had plenty of competition from revellers stripping down to the barest of essentials and celebrating New York’s legalisation of toplessness for women.

A shirtless man sporting rainbow-coloured wings and high white platform shoes strutted up Broadway. Rainbow onesie leotards were popular, and there were plenty of colourful wigs, patent leather, fishnets and bright makeup.

The event comes against what critics say is Donald Trump's Republican administration opening the door once again to overt discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community.

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Australian LGBTIQ+ pioneer at World Pride in New York
Australian LGBTIQ+ pioneer at World Pride in New York

‘Still a lot of work ahead'

The world’s marquee gay pride parade was preceded on Sunday by a protest march by thousands of anti-corporate dissidents who rejected a uniformed police presence and commercial sponsorship while demanding LGBTIQ+ equality.

The Queer Liberation March aimed to call attention to the killing of black trans women, protest US detentions of migrant children and oppose actions by US President Donald Trump’s administration to curtail the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer people.

They marched behind a banner reading: “We Resist” and hoisted signs with statements such as “My trans pride is not business marketing” and “Decolonize Pride.”

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.

Stonewall Day commemorates the June 1969 riots sparked by repeated police raids on the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay bar
Stonewall Day commemorates the June 1969 riots sparked by repeated police raids on the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay bar
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'Honouring history': Supporters gather at Stonewall Inn

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided New York’s Stonewall Inn, ostensibly to shut down a Mafia-owned establishment selling watered-down liquor without a license.

But the raid followed a series of others at gay bars in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood, and the patrons fought back, forcing police to barricade themselves inside.

That touched off several nights of riots and the birth of a movement.

Visitors from abroad travelled to the Stonewall Inn to remember the importance of that event.

Among them was 63-year-old Australian Helen Gollin who helped found Sydney's first Mardi Gras gay march in 1978.

"It's about honouring all that went on before us and all those who died in the name of freedom," said Ms Gollin.

"It's our history, it's the reason why we can be whoever we want to be. That's why it was important to come and celebrate," added Francesco Servalli, 38, who came from Italy with four friends to take part in the march.

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How the Stonewall riots influenced Sydney's first Mardi Gras
How the Stonewall riots influenced Sydney's first Mardi Gras

Servalli and others said Gay Pride is important for another reason: to muster the strength to keep fighting for LGBTIQ+ rights at a time when people they call extremist politicians -- like Trump, or Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil -- have come to the fore.

"I feel like we are going backward," said Servalli, citing in particular violence against transgender people.

"But maybe it's history: sometimes you need to go backward to continue going further."

Clashes in Turkey as anniversary is marked globally

Similar parades were being held around the world, with celebratory events in liberal democracies and growing fights for equality in other places.

North Macedonia held its first gay pride march on Saturday. In Singapore, marchers called for scrapping a law banning gay sex.

The annual Pink Dot event is the closest thing Singapore has to a gay pride parade.
The annual Pink Dot event is the closest thing Singapore has to a gay pride parade.
EPA

In Turkey, members of Istanbul’s gay and transgender community gathered for a small rally that ended with tear gas and rubber bullets on Sunday after their annual march was banned for the fifth consecutive year.

Activists gathered in Istanbul to promote rights for gay and transgender people.
Activists gathered in Istanbul to promote rights for gay and transgender people.
AP

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