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article imageFirst gay pride festival held in Prague

By Lynn Curwin     Aug 13, 2011 in World
Prague - Thousands of people were on the streets of Prague to take part in the city's first gay pride march, while many others came to watch and conservative groups showed up to protest.
Prague Pride reported that at least 5,000 people took part in the march, which was part of the Pride and Tolerance Festival being held in the city August 10 - 14.
The festival included music, dance, theatre, workshops, movies and sports.
RTE reported that there was controversy before the event even began when Petr Hajek, an aide to Czech President Vaclav Klaus spoke out against the city's mayor for supporting a festival of "deviant fellow citizens."
This resulted in the ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States issuing a joint statement of support for the event.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, a former gynaecologist and obstetrician, stated his belief in the value of tolerance and was firm in his support for the festival.
"I understand all voices opposed to it, but this changes nothing in my conviction that we all have equal rights and that the information which emerges in a child's brain before its birth is unchangeable," he told the Prague Monitor.
About 300 police officers were on hand during the march, and two protesters were arrested for throwing smoke bombs.
According to France 24, about 40 protesters yelled insults at at one point but the marchers only smiled and waved at them.
The BBC reported that the Conservative Christian Democrats held a peaceful counter-parade.
"For me, one of the main things is that this should be a place, a festival for everyone to come, have a good time and enjoy themselves. It's a celebration," Bastiaan Huijgen, a member of the Prague Pride organizing committee, told the Prague Post. "How can people protest a bunch of people having a good time in the street? Sure, it also helps to bring visibility to the LGBT community, and Czechs tend to be a bit introverted on these matters."
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