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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Thousands party at Gay Pride
Men dressed as birds of paradise
Revellers put the Trafalgar Square pigeons to shame with their exotic birds of paradise costumes
Several thousand people took to the streets of London on Saturday for the annual Gay Pride parade and festival.

The parade was followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square and a music festival in Finsbury Park in north London.

Earlier, floats, bands and dancers took part in the march through Westminster, past the Houses of Parliament and along Victoria Embankment.

This year the event was recognised as a parade rather than a demonstration for the first time.

It is a very important symbol for us to show that police don't only police the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in London, but that they are part of it as well
Det Con Carl Wonfor from Scotland Yard

The march, which began in Hyde Park, was dedicated to murdered Jamaican gay rights campaigner Brian Williamson.

Mr Williamson, who was the founder of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All sexuals and Gays (J-Flag), was found dead from multiple stab wounds at his home in Kingston, Jamaica, last month.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who attended the festival, said: "I am proud that London continues to lead the way in moving towards lesbian and gay equality, but as the murder of Brian Williamson shows, homophobia continues to have tragic consequences all over the world."

Biggest gay festival

Those attending the parade included actor Ian McKellen and the UK's most senior openly gay police officer, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick.

A contingent from the Gay Police Association, drawing members from across the UK, also joined in.

Det Con Carl Wonfor, from Scotland Yard, said: "Some of our police officers will be marching in uniform in the parade. That is a very important symbol for us to show that police don't only police the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in London, but that they are part of it as well."

Speakers at the rally included Lord Waheed Alli, the first openly gay peer, Peter Tatchell, Gay and Human Rights Campaigner, co-founder of OutRage!, and Ken Livingstone.

The music festival - Big Gay Out - is expected to include 45 artists who are scheduled to perform at the official Pride Party, along with more than 50 DJs.

The Sugababes, Jamelia and Peter Andre are among the performers.

Highlights include an outdoor dance stage cabaret tent, and a beach bar.

The Gay Pride festival is thought to be Europe's biggest gay festival.

Did you attend Gay Pride? Is the event a fitting tribute to Brian Williamson? You sent us your comments.

This park is not meant for big commercial events of any sort. Local people are excluded from using the park for it's nominated use and are prisoners in their own homes due to road closures and noise etc. We have to endure total disruption to our normal daily life and don't see any benefits from using the park this way and it undermines any renovations or planting that is done at any time. We want the park back for people to enjoy as it should be, 365 days a year.
M. Palm, London

The parades and festivals simply continue to reinforce the stereotypes that plague us
Sherri, SE London
Pride has always been a joke and a commercial sham, and shows no sign of turning around. It reverses any positive views the 'straight' community might have formed about "us" that I as a transgendered person find very sad. The parades and festivals simply continue to reinforce the stereotypes that plague us and allow those outside the community to continue to persecute us. The images of Gay Pride in the media have created a picture of a sick, sexually charged, hedonistic community. It does nothing to build the community at all and those images stick with people and I believe are a big factor in causing gay & transgender hate crime in communities.
Sherri, SE London

Brilliant! My first time at pride. Amazing to see such a diversity of people - Great to see the police marching in uniform and many encouragements from so many different people.
Vicki, Castle Cary, Somerset

I think that Brian should be remembered for his work with the gay and lesbian communities of Jamaica. Also three cheers for a very understanding Lord Mayor of London. Good work by all involved.
David, Scarborough, Australia

This was more than a `day out' for the LGBT community - it marked an act of remembrance for a man who was murdered for his sexuality, in the same way that Stephen Lawrence was murdered for his skin colour.
Phillip, London, England.

The best of recent years
Alon, London, UK
This London Pride was the best of recent years. The free public rally, with community stalls, speakers and entertainment was exactly how Pride should be. I hope it will continue to run like this every year!
Alon, London, UK

I've attended Berlin Pride last week and I'm going to attend a similar event in Amsterdam next month. In both cities the events are meant to bring gay and straight people together. Unfortunately, this is not the case in London. The whole thing here is too commercial and segregated. It's time to change format and have the whole thing as a big street party open to all people. The days when gay people had to struggle to have a party are long gone.
Moshe, London, UK

Until we actually achieve equality in the country that we live and pay equal taxes in with everyone else, we should be marching not parading. Until I have the same social and legal rights as 'straight' people, I shall continue to march.
Leander, London

It would be interesting to know what the performers at Finsbury Park really feel about gay rights. Especially after the controversy with Liberty X, are they just going for the Pink Pound?
A Smith, London

I will certainly not be spending 25 quid to sit in Finsbury Park
Robert, London
I will not be attending this year. I attended my first Gay Pride in 1987 when I was 16yrs old and I'm ashamed to say that it just isn't what it used to be. Infighting, disputes, greed etc have made it into a money making venture and I will certainly not be spending 25 quid to sit in Finsbury Park. I also feel that a better tribute could have been given to Brian Williamson - he deserves a lot more!
Robert, London

To the guesthouse owner in Scotland who recently abused a gay couple from London - can we all stay at your guesthouse for next year's Scottish Gay Pride in Inverness?
Jeff, London, UK

Does it mean that in the interests of true equality we should now have a huge parade in celebration of straight sex?
John Smith, London, UK

The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"This year Gay Pride was, for the first time, classed officially as a parade"

In pictures: Gay Pride
27 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery

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