LGBTQ+ Pride Month culminates with parades in NYC, San Francisco and beyond

Christy Gorbet, of Pleasanton, center, dances in front of the main stage during the first of two days of Pride Celebration at Civic Center in San Francisco, Saturday, June 29, 2024. (Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)(AP/Stephen Lam)

NEW YORK (AP) — The monthlong celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride reached its exuberant grand finale on Sunday, bringing rainbow-laden revelers to the streets for marquee parades in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere across the globe.

The wide-ranging festivities functioned as both jubilant parties and political protests, as participants recognize the community’s gains while also calling attention to recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws, such as bans on transgender health care, passed by Republican-led states.

“We’re at a time where there’s a ton of legislation, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation,” Zach Overton, 47, said at the New York parade. “It feels like we’re taking a step backwards in the fight for equality and so it’s a great moment to come out and be with our community and see all the different colors of the spectrum of our community and remind ourselves what we’re all fighting for.”

Thousands of people gathered along New York’s Fifth Avenue to celebrate Pride. Floats cruised the street as Diane Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” played from loudspeakers. Pride flags filled the horizon, and signs in support of Puerto Rico, Ukraine and Gaza were visible in the crowd.

This year, tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza also seeped into the celebrations, exposing divisions within a community that is often aligned on political issues. Protesters temporarily blocked the New York parade on Sunday, chanting: “Free, free, free Palestine!” Police eventually took some of them away.

Pro-Palestinian activists disrupted pride parades earlier in June in Boston, Denver, and Philadelphia. Several groups participating in marches Sunday said they would seek to highlight the victims of the war in Gaza, spurring pushback from supporters of Israel.

“It is certainly a more active presence this year in terms of protest at Pride events,” said Sandra Pérez, the executive director of NYC Pride. “But we were born out of a protest.”

The first pride march was held in New York City in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising, a riot that began with a police raid on a Manhattan gay bar.

Nick Taricco, 47, who was at the New York parade with Overton, said he attended Friday’s opening of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, where President Joe Biden spoke. Taricco said he has concerns about politics in the U.S., including the presidential election.

“Even given how old he is, I still think that’s the direction we need to go in,” Taricco said of Biden. “But it’s a very uncertain time in general in this country.”

Ireland Fernandez-Cosgrove, 23, celebrated at the New York parade.

“New York City is a great place to live, but this is one of the only days where you can come out and be openly queer and you know you’re going to be OK and safe about it,” she said. “I came out here today with my partner to be able to be ourselves in public and know that other people are going to be supporting us.”

In addition to the NYC Pride March, the nation’s largest, the city also played host Sunday to the Queer Liberation March, an activism-centered event launched five years ago amid concerns that the more mainstream parade had become too corporate.

Another one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations took place Sunday in San Francisco, with throngs of spectators lined up along Market Street.

Brian Peterson, the secretary of queer-friendly motorcycling club Homoto, rode his motorcycle along the parade route.

“This is an event where I can celebrate myself as well as my friends and make new friends, and reaffirm that I belong in this world,” Peterson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tens of thousands of revelers packed sidewalks along Chicago’s parade, a scaled-back event from previous years. City officials shortened the North Side route and the number of floats this year from 199 to about 150 over safety and logistical concerns, including to better deploy police into evening hours as post-parade parties have become more disruptive in recent years. Chicago’s parade, one of the largest in the U.S., routinely draws about 1 million people, according to the city. Sunday’s crowd estimates were not immediately available.

Parades also were held in Minneapolis and Seattle.

On top of concerns about protests, federal agencies had warned that foreign terrorist organizations and their supporters could target the parades and adjacent venues. Security was heavy at all of the events.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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