Gauteng’s lesbian and gay community took to the streets of Johannesburg on Saturday to celebrate Gay Pride’s sixteenth anniversary. The event was described by many as one of the best organised, most well attended, most representative, and successful to date.

According to the Metro Police, between 15 000 and 22 000 people took part in the parade that began at Constitution Hill at just after 4pm, moved through the city centre into Newtown, across the Nelson Mandela Bridge, and to the Heartlands. There, the revellers indulged in a street party in and around the entertainment complex.

The parade was composed of marchers – many in drag and in outrageous costumes – as well as a variety of floats, some ambitious and others less so, all framed by the grand scale of the city’s skyscrapers on a sweltering spring day. It was the first time in three years that Pride took place in the CBD.

The event was however marred by isolated incidents of objects being thrown at the marchers from high rise residential buildings. Bystanders described bottles and bricks being thrown at two spots along the route. An 18 year old woman, taking part on the FEW (Forum for the Empowerment of Women) float, was seriously injured when she was struck by a broken bottle, which pierced her neck. Emergency personnel were reportedly quick to respond and she was rushed to Johannesburg Hospital trauma unit.

According to Pride co-ordinator Paul Tilly, the woman lost a considerable amount of blood, but is expected to fully recover. He added that a strategy to avoid similar incidents next year will be discussed with Metro Police. It is not known whether the attack was related to the fact that the parade was a gay and lesbian event. Metro Police on the scene however appeared to take little visible action against the building’s residents, and the culprit has not yet been identified. Onlookers were left shaken by the attack.

Other aspects that saw this year’s Pride stand out from those of previous years included a later start time in the day and the conclusion of the parade at the Heartlands. The later starting time was welcomed by many as the march avoided taking place during the hottest part of the day, and the Heartlands street bash, while admittedly uncomfortably overcrowded, allowed the party to continue into the evening.

A number of the city’s clubs threw night-time after-parties, including the Heartlands, which continued to attract crowds into the early morning, as well as Simply Blue, Ramp Divas in the East Rand and Legends in Pretoria.

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