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Peter Tatchell says ‘reclaim’ Pride as political march

While corporations back the event, many feel they are 'too dominant'

07 July, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Peter Tatchell has been at every Pride march in London since 1972

HUMAN rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has urged people to “reclaim” Pride as a political march and blasted the over-commercialisation of the annual event.
The activist, who has been at every Pride march in London since it began in 1972, said it was “sad” to see the event dominated by floats from major corporations, overshadowing messages of human rights.

He told the Westminster Extra: “We need to reclaim the original LGBT liberation spirit that was at the heart of the first Pride parade in the 1970s. It’s great that Pride has become more mainstream but sad to see that it’s often overly commercialised, straitjacketed and diminished in the LGBT human rights agenda compared to 1972.” He added that while it was “positive that big corporations are backing Pride”, many felt they have become “a bit too dominant”. He praised the organisers of the event, but felt rising costs and controls had changed the event’s character to something more “regimented”.

Mr Tatchell has also questioned why a limit had been placed on the number of people who could take part in the protest by the authorities. Around 26,500 participants will parade through the capital’s streets on Saturday, with even more watching, but Mr Tatchell said back in 1997, more than 100,000 took part in the parade.

Recalling the first event, he said: “In 1972, Pride was concerned with making the LGBT community more visible, celebrating our culture and demanding equal rights.” He will march in the parade, tomorrow (Saturday) with his organisation the Peter Tatchell Foundation in support of LGBT people in Chechnya.

Many critics have taken issue with the number of commercial companies taking part in the parade and using it as a “PR opportunity” to win over LGBT consumers rather than promoting an LGBT human rights message.

Campaigner Dan Glass, who a couple of years ago helped stage an RIP Pride funeral “to remember what Pride started as and its radical legacy” said the event has been “hijacked by corporations trying to buy our love”.

Recalling the protest in 2015, he said: “We also were there to protest against what it has become. It was a powerful moment to share our collective grief over the soulless corporate character of ‘Pride in London’, which has nothing to say about LGBTQI issues today, such as one in four homeless people in the UK being from our community, the people seeing services upon which they depend cut as part of the austerity agenda, or the loss of queer spaces in London to property developers serving an international elite.”

But he said despite the “massive increase in corporations”, there has also been “an incredible rise of resistance to this”.

Westminster Council said it cherishes Pride and this year’s event will be bigger than ever. “We do not set a cap on the number of participants.

“An upper limit is agreed with the agencies involved to ensure the event can safely accommodate everyone who wants to join in the fun of
this iconic event. The Lord Mayor of Westminster will proudly lead the parade with the Mayor of London this Saturday,” it added.

A spokeswoman for Pride said: “Over 60 per cent of groups taking part in the parade this year are non-profit and community groups. We are extremely proud that companies who once shunned and hid their LGBT+ employees are now going out of their way to show that they are valued, welcome and celebrated. The power and the impact that this has cannot be underestimated.”

She said the event cost around £800,000 and organisers relied heavily on sponsors to “continue doing the crucial role we play in the fight for equality for the LGBT+ community”.

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