Amsterdam Canal Pride parade celebrates Stonewall anniversary

Rainbow flags are seen at the Stonewall National Monument, the first LGBTQ national monument, dedicated to the birthplace of modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights movement. (AFP pic)

AMSTERDAM: One of Europe’s biggest annual Gay Pride parades kicked off on the canals of Amsterdam on Saturday, with over 500,000 visitors from around the world expected to cheer on 80 boats representing a wide variety of organisations from the LGBTI+ community.

“Remember the past, create the future”, is this year’s theme, as the parade commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the so-called Stonewall riots.

The series of often violent demonstrations by the gay community in the summer of 1969, which erupted after a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, is seen as a pivotal moment in the history of the LGBT movement.

Since its start in 1996, the Amsterdam Canal Pride parade has quickly grown into one of the biggest annual events in the Dutch capital.

Its popularity has forced organisers to become stricter over the years, banning private boats from the canals during the parade unless they have paid for a special ticket and prohibiting spectators from bringing their own sound systems to the party.

“Considering the other years, rules are much stricter this year. No very loud music is allowed, no crazy dancing. But we make it our own party,” said one of the participants.

But visitors said the event would remain meaningful for them.

“Every year my mother makes a fancy dress for me. Every year we come to Amsterdam just to support everybody”, said Maartje Bruens, a visitor from Zandvoort. “Love is love.”