Protests fail to dampen spirits at London’s Pride festival

Jaclyn Carbone/AM980

Kiera Lindgren comes from a small town. She says she never had a chance to mark Pride growing up, so being able to celebrate it in London on Sunday meant a lot to her.

“I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin,” she said.

Sitting beside her, Elizabeth Kean says she’s been attending the Pride London Festival for the past two years.

“I think coming together is important, especially when something that should be a basic human right is being protested right across the street,” she pointed out.

READ MORE: London Police invite outside jurisdictions to march in Sunday’s Pride Parade

Protesters aside, organizers say this year’s Pride parade was a huge success.

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“We had great weather, wonderful spirit. We’re very happy with how everything went,” said Chad Callander, Pride London Festival vice-president.

124 groups participated in the parade this year, a new record for the festival, Callander said.

Callander estimates about 5,000 to 10,000 people were in attendance for Sunday’s parade, but says that number is closer to 25,000 or 30,000 over the whole weekend of festivities.

“I always tell people when we’re getting ready for the parade that there will be protesters, but to not engage with them,” Callender said. “If anything, just say we support your right to be here — we welcome anyone, and unfortunately sometimes they’re against us, but it’s all part of the process.

“If you look at the amount of people who are out there showing love, I think it just goes to show how far we’ve come.”

Theresa Allott, diversity officer for the London Police, agrees, noting the parade was a positive event with strong support from the community.

“We’re having dialogue, and I think that’s important,” Allott said. “I like to go by audience reaction, and we had a lot of people coming and thanking us for being part of the parade.”

READ MORE: London couple feels ‘violated’ after pride flag burned with cigarettes

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Before heading out to wrap up the day’s celebrations, Callander had an important message for Londoners celebrating Pride.

“Today is very much a celebration, but also a reminder that there are many people around the world that don’t have the rights and privileges that we do,” he noted. “I think we have to continue to have this festival for that reminder, and to continue to make the LGBTQ community better.”

Lindgren, for one, hopes to be back next year. “I think it’s important to realize that nothing is static,” she said. “It’s always good to be growing and learning — about anything and everything.”