Around 35,000 revellers have marched for LGBTQ rights at Berlin’s annual Christopher Street Day celebration – twice as many as had been expected.
he parade started with a call from Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture, to make the city a “queer-freedom zone” in response to deteriorating safety for gay and lesbian people in Hungary and neighbouring Poland.
“LGBT-free zones” have been declared in parts of Poland, while Hungary recently passed a law banning the depiction of homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors that has been denounced as discriminatory by human rights groups.
Mr Lederer said the situation in the two EU members “sends shivers down my back”.
The senator also noted that the pandemic had been particularly hard for some gays and lesbians at home as shelters were closed.
He said “there is still much work to be done”.
Organisers of the parade had been expecting around 20,000 people amid social distancing rules and a ban on alcohol to combat the risk of new coronavirus infections.
There was no parade last year due to the pandemic, so many people took advantage of the warm sunny weather and relatively low rate of infections to take part in the last major gathering for Berlin’s Pride month.
Nearby, the United States embassy flew a rainbow flag under the American flag.
The parade was led by five trucks that were spaced apart to give demonstrators more room as they danced past the city’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.
Organisers made repeated calls for revellers to put masks on and keep their distance – though it was not always possible due to the sheer number of people.
The celebrations were preceded by an apparent homophobic attack on a male couple in a Berlin subway late on Friday.
Police said the men were sitting in a train when they were approached by a stranger who insulted them and then punched one of the men several times.
Other passengers intervened and he was apprehended after fleeing briefly.
Also on Friday, Bishop Christian Stablein asked during a service at Berlin’s Marienkirche for forgiveness from the LGBTQ community for the suffering caused to them by the evangelical church.