Nationalists throw firecrackers at Polish Gay Pride parade
Jun 11, 2011, 15:54 GMT
Warsaw - Polish ultra-nationalists threw firecrackers and shouted homophobic abuse in Warsaw on Saturday at the country's Gay Pride parade.
Marchers demanded legal rights for same-sex couples, government action on discrimination and laws against homophobic hate speech.
More than 3,000 gays, lesbians and their supporters were cordoned off by police from a smaller group of counter-demonstrators, who shouted slogans such as, 'Man and Qoman:Normal Family.'
Those demonstrating against the parade included members of the All-Polish Youth, an ultra-conservative organization that preaches nationalism and family values.
The march set off from parliament, and began with the playing of the Polish national anthem - organizers said they wanted to be demonstrate their love for their country.
Marchers waved the rainbow-coloured gay pride flags as they danced to techno music and waved banners saying, 'Love Doesn't Exclude.' A group of women dressed as nurses carried signs saying, 'Homophobia is Curable.'
Organisers said they wanted sexual education in schools to include homosexuality, and the right to receive information on their partner's health if the partner was hospitalised.
Politicians from the Democratic Left Alliance, Poland's second-largest opposition party, took part in the parade.
The British ambassador in Poland, Rick Todd, told the crowd that the parade was not against anyone, and that it supported diversity. The crowd yelled back, 'God Save the Queen.'
Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science, built by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, was lit up in multi-colored lights for the event.
The three-hour parade concluded without major incident in the late afternoon and there were no arrests or detentions, a police spokesman said.
Police would keep patrol as crowds were set to gather for a concert that was to carry on until the evening.
Gay rights activists have said that big cities like Warsaw and Krakow are becoming more liberal and tolerant towards homosexual couples. But an openly gay couple is still a rare sight in smaller towns, where gays can face taunts or threats.
Last year, police used batons to push back egg-throwing anti-gay demonstrators as they threw eggs when the city hosted for the first time a EuroPride gay parade, which is held each year in a different European city.
Warsaw has hosted gay pride parades since 2001, but homosexuality remains a difficult subject in the largely Roman Catholic nation. Gay pride parades were banned in 2004 and 2005 by then mayor Lech Kaczynski.