Greece was a huge shock. After the last few Prides we’ve attended in Eastern Europe, it was a little unnerving (but at the same time refreshing) to see Athens Pride take place so openly in the middle of the city. Despite some of the morning events being canceled due to another march by a local worker’s union, there was still a strong gay presence at the meeting point of Klafthmonos Square all day.
Chad and I arrived around 1pm, although the actual parade wasn’t scheduled until 6pm. White tents were set up around the public square, containing LGBT supportive organizations and businesses. As each hour passed, the number of people present in the open area steadily increased, until it got difficult even to move without bumping into someone. And, the atmosphere of the square was very playful, with bursts of confetti being shot into the air, and people hanging out with friends in front of the large monument that dominated the square.
Thousands of people were ready to take part in the pride parade, and amazingly protesters were practically non-existent. Those who did complain were mainly a few elderly people who would pass the square, yell something, and then go on their way. In fact, there was only one lady really protesting, a religious fanatic who clasped a picture of Jesus. However, it was nothing like the intolerance and homophobia we’ve encountered at some of the last Pride festivals we’d attended.
Around 6, the parade started with the large rainbow flag stretched out to lead the Pride. As TV crews and photographers circled to get images from the start of the pride, the lady holding the picture of Jesus jumped in front. Instead of pushing her out of the way, participants took her in with a smile, even inviting her onto one of the floats … where she spent the entire parade ‘protesting’ with her picture of Jesus to the tunes of Madonna and Lady GaGa.
A little under 5,000 people showed up to march, with even more joining the parade as it went along the streets of downtown Athens, and there were two decorated floats blasting music as people danced. Going along with the theme ‘we are everywhere,’ the first float showcased LGBT persons in different occupations (this was the float carrying the protestor). The second was a truck full of transsexual dancers dressed in sexy outfits. However, the majority of people were dressed in normal clothes, with many of the LGBT couples holding hands, all proudly marching. Taking up the rear of the march was a group holding signs, chanting “what do want? – Equal rights” and “When do we want them? – NOW!”
The pride procession went down some of the main streets of Athens, past the Parliament building, and lasted for almost 1.5 miles (2.4km).
Happy Pride Athens!