MADRID (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people marched Saturday in a global gay pride demonstration in Madrid under tight security, and a parade of 52 floats took the festivities through the Spanish capital and into the night.
The rally was led by all of Spain's major political parties, both left and right, who carried a large banner that read "For LGBTI Rights All Over the World." Behind them came a slow-moving mass of people decked out in rainbow flags and colorful outfits, dancing to music under the southern European sun.
The march included several groups from other countries, including the United States and Britain, as well as groups ranging from rural lesbians to gay and lesbian police officers.
"For all the people in countries who are suffering persecution, we have to celebrate and make visible our pride," Jesus Generelo, the head of the Spanish federation of LGBT people, told a large crowd from an outdoor stage after the march.
Four activists read a manifesto that urged the European Union to help export LGBTI rights around the world, with particular emphasis on Chechnya, Russia, and other countries that discriminate, criminalize or torture gay people. It also demanded that the World Health Organization stop categorizing transgender identity as a mental illness.
The massive outdoor gathering was the highlight of the 10-day World Pride 2017 festival, which concludes on Sunday. The multi-national event was held in London in 2012, Toronto in 2014, and it will next be in New York in 2019.
While Spanish police said they had no indications of any planned attacks by extremist groups, authorities reduced the traffic flow in Madrid on Saturday, banned heavy trucks and deployed 3,500 police in the city center.
Spain has become one of the most progressive countries for gay rights. It was ahead of most countries in legalizing same-sex marriages and adoptions in 2005. Parliament is planning a new law to ensure that all government offices remove barriers to ensure LGBTI equality.
Joseph Wilson contributed from Barcelona.
This story corrects to LGBTI rights throughout.