July 2, 2017 at 10:35 pm PST | by Michael K. Lavers
More than 1 million attend WorldPride march in Madrid

WorldPride, gay news, Washington Blade

More than 1 million people lined the streets of Madrid on July 1, 2017, for the WorldPride 2017 march and parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MADRID — More than a million people lined the streets of the Spanish capital on Saturday for the 2017 WorldPride march and parade.

Representatives of Spain’s main political parties — the Popular Party, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Podemos, Ciudadanos and Izquierda Unida — and Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena are among those who participated in the event that took place under the slogan “For LGBTI Rights All Over the World.”

Several dozen Russian LGBT rights advocates and members of Democrats Abroad are among those who took part in the massive march from the Atocha train station to Plaza de Colón that began at 6 p.m. local time (noon EST). The Associated Press reported 52 floats also took part in the parade that was still going on when the Washington Blade left the area between the Prado Museum and the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid shortly after 11 p.m. (5 p.m. EST).

Marchers carried signs, banners and fans that read, among other things, “To love is not a crime.”

One group marched with a banner that read, “We trans men exist.” Another marcher was holding a sign that described the Israeli government’s policies towards the Palestinians as “Apartheid.” A man who was standing on the edge of a fountain near the Prado Museum was wearing a blue t-shirt that read, “Impeach 45” in reference to President Trump.

A group of Portuguese men who were walking on Madrid’s Gran Via before the march were wearing t-shirts that had a caricature of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face against the backdrop of a rainbow flag.

“Fuck you Putin,” read a message that was printed on the back of the t-shirts. “We will stop you with our gayness.”

WorldPride took place against the backdrop of the ongoing persecution of gay men and lesbians in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian republic that is located in the North Caucuses. German lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Associated Press reported terrorism concerns prompted officials to close several streets around the area in which the march and parade took place, ban large trucks and deploy more than 3,000 police officers. The Blade on early Saturday morning saw police officers search a woman’s backpack as she walked towards a square in Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood in which one of the many WorldPride stages was located.

Officials have not reported any terrorism-related incidents.

March, parade cap off 10 days of WorldPride events

WorldPride has drawn more than three million people to Madrid since it formally began on June 23.

Former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and former Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir are among the hundreds of officials and activists from across the world who attended the WorldPride International Human Rights Conference that took place at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid from June 26-28. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and the organizers of the WorldPride International Human Rights Conference on Thursday announced the creation of a new LGBT and intersex rights group that will include more than three dozen elected officials from around the world.

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, the Party of European Socialists and Rainbow Rose, which is its LGBT and intersex network, on Friday held a conference at the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party’s headquarters in Madrid. Tech4Chechnya, a group of LGBT and intersex people who work for high-tech industry, gathered at Google’s Madrid offices last week to help advocate on behalf of gay Chechens and the Russian LGBT rights advocates who are providing them with assistance.

“It’s very important to express a kind of European solidarity,” Bea Tilanus, a trans member of Rainbow Rose’s board of directors who is from the Netherlands, told the Blade on Saturday before she and hundreds of others attended a pre-WorldPride march and parade rally at the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party-Madrid’s headquarters in Chueca. “We want to really have is contact with all of the people and to empower them in their own political parties.”

Matthew Welborn of Columbia Heights and Michael Criswell of Adams Morgan had rainbow flags wrapped around their shoulders on Saturday as they stood on Paseo del Prado before the march began.

Criswell told the Blade the Spanish government made “a big effort to make us feel welcome,” noting the rainbow flags and signs celebrating WorldPride had been placed throughout the city in recent weeks. Welborn, who studied in Madrid when he was in college, agreed.

“Everyone’s so open,” he told the Blade. “We just feel very blessed and very lucky.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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