After initially being banned, the first Pride parade in Lithuania went ahead on Saturday – complete with rainbow flags, placards calling for equality and loud music – but was ultimately marred by violence.

The ‘March for Tolerance’, was the climax of Baltic Gay Pride – celebrating the LGBT community in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and took place in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Around 400 people, including members of the European Parliament, took part in the two hour parade which saw anti-gay protesters throwing rocks and smoke bombs at the participants.

A Catholic mass praying for gay people was held at a nearby cathedral and a petrol bomb was thrown at the offices of one of the organisers, Youth for Tolerance, but failed to ignite.

The police were praised for keeping the marchers safe and the violence under control, at times using tear gas. Around 20 people were arrested and one police officer was slightly injured.

“We’ve made a decisive step towards greater tolerance,” Vytautas Valentinavicius, one of the organisers, told the AFP news agency.

A Lithuanian court banned the event last week out of concern over potential security risks, but the ban was later overturned.

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