Tens of thousands march for LGBTQ rights at Berlin Parade | lifestyle

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BERLIN (AP) – Around 65,000 night owls marched for LGBTQ rights at the annual Berlin Christopher Street Day celebration on Saturday, more than three times as many as expected.

It was the largest demonstration in Berlin since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The parade began with a call from Berlin’s Senator for Culture, Klaus Lederer, to turn the city into a “queer freedom zone” in response to the deteriorating security for gays and lesbians in Hungary and neighboring Poland.

Parts of Poland have been declared “LGBT-free zones”, while Hungary recently passed a law banning the representation of homosexuality or gender reassignment in minors, which human rights groups consider discriminatory.

Lederer said the situation in the two EU members “sends a shiver down my spine”.

The Senator also noted that the pandemic had been particularly harsh for some gays and lesbians at home as shelters closed. He said, “There is still a lot to be done.”

Police spokesman Martin Dams initially told The Associated Press that an estimated 35,000 people attended the parade, but that number was revised upwards later on Saturday. The organizers put the number at 80,000.

They had expected around 20,000 people under social distancing rules and an alcohol ban to combat the risk of new coronavirus infections.

Because of the pandemic, there was no parade last year, so many people took advantage of the warm, sunny weather and the relatively low infection rate to attend the last big gathering for Berlin’s Pride month.

Nearby, the U.S. embassy waved a rainbow flag under the American flag.

The parade was led by five trucks spaced apart to give more space for protesters as they danced through the city’s iconic Brandenburg Gate to techno beats. The organizers repeatedly asked the night owls to put on masks and keep their distance – but this was not always possible due to the sheer crowd.

The celebrations were preceded on Friday by an apparently homophobic attack on a male couple in a Berlin subway. Police said the men were on a train when they were approached by a stranger who insulted them and then hit one of the men several times. Other passengers intervened and he was arrested after a short escape.

Also on Friday, during a service in the Marienkirche in Berlin, Bishop Christian Stäblein asked the LGBTQ community for forgiveness for the suffering inflicted on them by the Evangelical Church.

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