(AFP) – Jun 27, 2009
PARIS (AFP) — Hundreds of thousands on Saturday marched through Paris and Berlin in flamboyant Gay Pride parades with US showbiz diva and gay icon Liza Minnelli mesmerising crowds in the French capital.
Minnelli, who takes to the stage later Saturday in the French capital, a city which also holds fond memories for the star of her film director father, dazzled with a brief dance routine.
"Freedom," she cried, dancing on a float festooned with multi-coloured balloons in the gay movement's symbolic rainbow hues.
Organisers said about 700,000 people attended the event but police put the number at some 200,000.
"We knew that she had a concert this evening in Paris but when her agent told us that she could come, we thought it was a joke," said Philippe Castel, the spokesman for an umbrella grouping of some 50 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender bodies.
"It's really an honour and a great pleasure to have her with us, she's an icon," he said.
"This will bring greater visibility to our fight."
But Castel said several things including marriage and adoption rights continued to elude gays and lesbians in France.
The vibrant procession included two floats blasting pop and techno music.
The event paid tribute to Stonewall -- a spontaneous New York uprising which erupted exactly 40 years ago and launched the US homosexual rights movement.
The event took its name from a New York bar, called the Stonewall Inn, which shot to global attention when its gay clientele staged a revolt against police harassment, sparking clashes for five days.
"It's been a long march. The progress accomplished has been great and gives us confidence," said Jack Lang, who as culture minister took one of the first Gay Pride marches in France in 1982.
"But we have to think very seriously about all the homosexuals in Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are being persecuted."
Berlin's 31st Gay Pride march drew about 550,000 participants and spectators, according to local media estimates.
The parade featured floats led by one emblazoned with the slogan "Step by step towards Gay Pride. Equal rights for all."
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