Tens of thousands of people turned out Saturday to either watch or march in the annual gay pride parade through downtown Oslo – or do both. The event climaxed a week of events tied to the EuroPride festival that already had attracted thousands to the Norwegian capital, with Saturday’s parade unfolding as a celebration of diversity and tolerance.
“No limits to our love – no borders to our rights” read one of the many banners carried in the parade that first and foremost demonstrated the right “to love who we choose,” regardless of sexual orientation. There were plenty of heterosexuals on hand as well, as smiling and cheering people of all ages lined the sidewalks, waved flags and applauded as group after group of gay, lesbian, transsexual and heterosexual marchers as well passed by. They were smiling, too, and clearly appreciated the support from the sidelines. Click here to view our photo special.
Several top local politicians including Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang led the parade, while others followed along later, some tied to their political parties and others just marching on their own. They included the new head of the Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre and the new deputy leader of the farmer-friendly Center Party, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, who was decked out in fishnet stockings and cut-off farmers’ overalls for the occasion. Neither is homosexual, nor is the government minister in charge of equality in Norway, Solveig Horne, but they all took part in the parade to demonstrate that they take gay rights seriously.
There have been a lot of political statements made during the past week in support of equal rights, with everyone from Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party to Store as leader of the opposition keen to be seen as what newspaper Dagsavisen called “children of the rainbow.” Now their credibility is at stake. Horne from the conservative Progress Party, criticized for some seemingly intolerant remarks about gays and lesbians several years ago, was invited to speak at the opening of EuroPride last week, and stressed that “all governments must actively protect vulnerable groups, especially when their fundamental rights are violated.” Horne and others will be held to such remarks, to make sure that rights be extended to everyone. Some marchers on Saturday demanded on their banners that “We want to be married in the church now,” while Tvinnereim worries that elderly gays still face prejudice among caregivers, and are afraid of meeting discrimination once again.
The mood at the parade on Saturday, however, was festive and joyful despite a few threats that had been posted on social media during the past week. The parade had a police escort and officers were on patrol along the route, but they were smiling, too, and helpfully answering questions. A large contingent of gay police officers also marched in the parade, in full uniform, and drew spontaneous applause all along the parade route. So did representatives from the Swedish police and even a small group of Belgian police. No disruptions were reported.
The weather cooperated, too, after several days of threatening skies and torrential rains. Forecasters had warned that another major storm was heading for Oslo and likely to pour down just as the parade was due to begin, but it didn’t happen. Skies were grey and temperatures unseasonably chilly, but there was no rain until the parade ended and the crowds could head for shelter at a “EuroPride Village” set up on the vast public plaza in front of City Hall. State meteorologists reported later in the afternoon that the storm front had changed course and headed for Sweden instead of Norway.
Next year’s EuroPride will be held in Riga, and a large group of Latvians marched in Saturday’s parade to promote the 2015 event. There were several other international groups marching as well, from Lithuania, London and the Philippines, among other cities and countries. Entertaining floats including one featuring a gay men’s choir spouting songs and soap bubbles got lots of applause.
Norwegian organizers were pleased with how their EuroPride festival played out over the past week, especially that the parade went so well and succeeded in attracting record crowds, even though police said they lost count of how many titusener (tens of thousands) were actually there. Organizers later reported that an estimated 20,000 took part in the parade alone, nearly double the number last year. As the government minister for equality Solveig Horne had claimed when the festival opened, EuroPride turned into “this summer’s most beautiful fairytale in Oslo.”
For some video highlights from the parade, click here.