Thousands march in York LGBTQ Pride parade

The University of York sent a delegation to participate in the parade from York Minster to Knavesmire [Image: Joseph Silke]

York’s LGBTQ Pride event took place on Saturday with over two thousand people coming out to celebrate. The event, organised in partnership with Aviva, featured a parade which processed from out-side of the west end of York Minister to Knavesmire where there was series of live performances. Aviva, one of York’s biggest employers, said of their support: “Every year we raise rainbow flags on our offices up and down the country, but this year we we have pushed the boat out by also illuminating our York office with fabulous rainbow lights in support of our LGBT+ customers.”

The parade featured delegations from the University of York, the YUSU LGBTQ Network, and the LGBTQ Social among representatives from various political parties on campus. This follows vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts raising the pride flag on campus last Monday. There were also separate supporting events in the surrounding days.

There were concerns leading up to the event that an English Defence League demonstration, planned for the same day, would lead to a clash with Pride attendees. These concerns spurred members of anti-fascist organisations including both students and members of the public, including York Antifa and York Stand Up to Racism, to organise counter-demonstrations. To prevent a clash , North Yorkshire Police contained the small EDL protest at the east end of the Minster, away from the beginning of the parade. This led to no disruption of York Pride and the parade went underway without any interruption.

An address from the pastor of York Minster, the Reverend Canon Michael Smith, kicked off the parade. The clergyman, who has responsible for community relations between the Chapter of York and the rest of the city, welcomed a contingent of refugees from countries where LGBTQ people face persecution and acknowledged the need to have continued conversations between the Church and LGBTQ people concerning equality issues. Same-sex marriage remains unrecognised within the Church of Eng-land, although some clergy will provide blessings for same-sex couples.

The Reverend Canon Michael Smith addressed the attendees to start the parade [Image: Joseph Silke]

There was controversy before the event due to the decision of t h e local Conservative Association to boycott the event. The York Conservatives, who ordinarily take part in the parade, decried the “nastiness and venom” they claim to have experienced at last year’s York Pride, which took place not long after the Conservative Party entered a confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party which opposes same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ equality measures. Addressing the issue to the press, the organisers of York Pride ex-pressed their disappointment in the decision to boycott but stressed: “If the LGBT+ community cannot air their dissatisfaction with such a coalition and exercise their right to free speech and protest at a Pride event, where can they?”

Speaking on the significance of York Pride, LGBTQ Social told Nouse: “LGBTQ Social were proud to stand with the University in celebrating York’s diverse culture and environment of respect at York Pride this weekend. T h e atmosphere at Pride was so incredible this year, and it was wonderful to see everyone supporting each other hand in hand!”

YUSU LGBTQ Officer Gem Card also told Nouse: “Pride is an event with many purposes, it’s about remembering the abuse and ongoing struggle LGBTQ people have faced from the beginning and that without them we may not be where we are today. It’s also a protest for the continuation of growth in equality, there is still work to be done and pride helps us to achieve this. And finally, it’s a celebration of who we are as people and how strong we are as a community.

“Homophobia is still a huge problem, whether it’s a simple word or a hate crime, this still exists all over the world. Unfortunately there are still countries where queer is a crime, some even punishable by death. LGBTQ people are still victims of prejudice and we need pride to help us fight back.

“I was very happy with the staff and student involvement on Saturday, I think it would have been nicer to see more networks and societies there supporting whether they identify as LGBTQ or not, but overall it was a good turn out, thank you to anyone who took part!”

There will be a York Student Pride event at Greg’s Place on Saturday 16 June from 12pm to 5pm. The event is organised by LGBTQ Social and “aims to celebrate the diversity at the University of York and provide a place for students and staff to get together, have a fun time together, and show their support for the LGBTQ community at the university.”