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London’s Pride Parade Returns After Pandemic Hiatus

Pride in London, on July 2.

Pride in London, on July 2.

Photographer: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

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The annual Pride Parade returned to the streets of London on Saturday for the first time since the pandemic, as thousands marched through the city to celebrate 50 years since the movement’s protest-rooted inception.

The parade embarked on its historic route on a cloudy but warm day in the British capital, moving eastward from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall Place. Organizers were hoping for record crowds, with some 1.5 million people expected to take part. It was led by gray-haired veterans of the first march, holding signs that read “I was there in 1972.” During that half-century, what started as an anti-establishment fight for basic rights has evolved into a decidedly more mainstream and corporate occasion. London's mayor Sadiq Khan and other politicians attended, and rainbow flags hung over Regent Street, a popular shopping destination in central London.

"I'm proud to be mayor of this city where you're free to love who you want to love and free to be who you want to be," Khan said at the start of the parade in a video posted on the event's official Instagram account.

Still, the marchers are rallying around fresh demands after recent events in the UK. A surge in hate crimes helped dent its image as a haven of tolerance and equality, while the Conservative government’s refusal to reform the gender recognition law and completely ban conversion therapy has stoked fierce debate.  The country is now not even in the region’s top 10 most LGBTQ-friendly nations, according to one ranking, having topped it nearly a decade ago.