Paris had certainly turned on the rainbows for Pride – particularly in the Marais district where it seemed everyone was getting in on the party.

The city hall was decked out with huge rainbow banners, and several pedestrian crossings in the Marais were embellished with rainbow colours.

There was some vandalism and graffiti on the crossings in the days before the march—highlighting that the struggle for LGBTI rights and acceptance was far from over—however, in response, Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the rainbow crossings would become permanent.

This year marked Paris Gay Pride’s 41st year, beating Sydney’s Mardi Gras to the punch by one year.

In 1977 a group of 300 people protested against the repression of gay men and lesbians in Paris. However, unlike the first Mardi Gras in Sydney, there was no violence and the atmosphere was more celebratory – a genuine pride march.

Fast forward to this year and Paris Gay Pride, officially La Marche des Fiertés de Paris, has become one of the biggest events in Paris of any kind and the biggest LGBTI event in France.

The organising committee, volunteer organisation Inter-LGBT, have reported that the event now attracts more than 500,000 people, though it is next to impossible to be sure, given the open nature of the march which sees people join and leave the parade along the 4.2 kilometre route. 

In fact, this was the first year barriers were used, and that was just at the start so the trucks could actually get going.

There were 87 floats or groups with most consisting of a truck, of varying size, followed by a phalanx of marchers (and sometimes dancers or musicians) that fluctuated in number along the route – not necessarily all connected with that particular float.

Gay anthems and dance music were pumped out of speakers carrying with them messages of love, equality, and fairness. It was an on-road gay dance party.

The floats included messages about the ongoing LGBTI struggle for rights and recognition, about sexual health and HIV, and many special interest and human rights groups.

There were floats from the embassies of Canada, the Netherlands, and UK, as well as some commercial interests such as Paris Water, SNCF (national railways), and also the City of Paris.

The theme of the march this year was ‘Homophobia in Sport’ with one of the biggest floats, right at the front, being for the Gay Games 2018, which are being held in Paris in August.

The parade route from Place de la Concorde was mostly along one of the main city thoroughfares past iconic sites like the Tuileries Palace and Louvre Museum.

There were glimpses of the Pompidou Centre and a final turn of this mostly straight course led right into Place de la Republic.

Over the years there have been several changes to the route but for 2019 the hope, subject to ongoing negotiations with police, is to take the march south of the river.

Marchers arrived at the end to a huge outdoor stage and concert. The party continued until late in the evening with tens of thousands of people filling the square.

And then, the next morning, everything was back to normal – apart from the occasional sparkle of glitter.

Bruce Robertson is the editor of cycletoursglobal.com and visited Paris at the end of a month-long cycling adventure in France.

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