Words: Will Stroude; Image: Twitter @Pliny_S
Veterans of the UK's first ever Pride parade reassembled to recreated the route of their original march in London on Friday (1 July).
Former members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) led protesters on an 'unofficial' Pride demonstration through the streets of London exactly 50 years to the day that their original march was held on 1 July 1972.
— Pliny 🏳️🌈 🇬🇧 🇲🇺 🇫🇷 (@Pliny_S) July 1, 2022
Crowds joined the veterans at St Martins-in-the-Field church in London's Trafalgar Square around midday before retracing the exact route of half a century ago, from Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street to Hyde Park.
The anniversary demonstation was distinctly political in tone, consisting of many grass-roots activists and organisations.
— Lauren Moss (@LaurenM0ss) July 1, 2022
It comes on the eve of Pride in London on Saturday 2 July, which has regularly been accused of becoming too commercialised and was last year rocked by accusations of racism sparked by the resignation of Pride in London’s director of communications, Rhammel Afflick, who described a “hostile environment” for Black people at the organisation.
In a statement ahead of Friday's Gay Liberation Front march, veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell - who was among the original GLF members who helped organise the original march 50 years ago - said: "This 1972 veterans-led Pride march gets back to the roots of Pride, being both a celebration and a protest for LGBT+ rights, with demands for LGBT+ liberation in the UK and worldwide.
Today in London - the Gay Liberation Front activists who led London's first ever Pride reconvene 50 years on to call for a socialist, revolutionary queer politics.— Matt Broomfield (@MattBroomfield1) July 1, 2022
TIL that GLF UK was founded after a conversation with Black Panther Huey Newton.
Proud to walk in their footsteps! pic.twitter.com/oCrVxZ8HRj
"Pride in London has become depoliticised and commercialised. The veterans march has no corporate sponsors and no police, arms manufacturers or fossil fuel companies.
"The Home Office and airlines that facilitate the deportation of LGBT+ refugees are not welcome and will not participate. We will put LGBT+ human rights centre stage.
Today is the anniversary of the 1st Pride in London of 1972.— Peter Tatchell Fdn (@PT_Foundation) July 1, 2022
Today we salute the brave members of the Gay Liberation Front.#PrideaisProtest #PrideMonth #GayLiberationFront #GLF@Pliny_S @donthidepride @studentpride pic.twitter.com/WMHYBRCIqI
Tatchell continued: "Unlike the official Pride in London, there is no limit on the number of people allowed to march. No one has to register, pay a fee or get a wristband. Just turn up.
"We are holding a commemorative Pride march for the LGBT+ community - totally open, egalitarian, grassroots and human rights-focussed. It mirrors the informality and spontaneity of the first Pride march in 1972."
With Andrew Lumsden & Julian Hows of the Gay Liberation Front who are real heros of our LGBT + community for their trailblazing campaigning. BRAVO.#Pride50 #PrideIsProtest #PrideMonth #GLF #London pic.twitter.com/m4ioEb4tP3— Peter Tatchell Fdn (@PT_Foundation) July 1, 2022
Despite Tatchell's criticism of Pride in London, veterans of the Gay Liberation Front are also set to lead Saturday's 'official' Pride parade in the capital.
Speaking prior to Friday's event, he said: "[Pride in London] is the official corporate-backed Pride in London march, supported by the Mayor of London, where they restrict the numbers to 30,000 marchers and turn away thousands of marchers every year.
Revd @SallyHitchiner of @smitf_london thanks the GLF veterans for fighting for the past 5 decades.— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) July 1, 2022
She apologises that they didn’t have the support of religious communities back then, but says that it’s because of those who came before that she’s now able to be herself.❤️ pic.twitter.com/PM639gHObw
"Most of us veterans have strong criticisms of the Pride in London organisers. But we believe that on this 50th anniversary of Pride it is important to have GLF and 1972 Pride veterans head the parade.
"We are being given the lead spot, both in the parade and onstage in Trafalgar Square after the march."