Thousands celebrate Athens Pride

Thousands of Athenians and foreign visitors paraded through the streets of central Athens on Saturday evening, celebrating the ninth installment of Athens Pride, a march to promote tolerance and diversity organized by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT).

Security was tight around the event as there were concerns that the parade may come under attack by anti-gay groups, including ultranationalists and some members of the Church. While a handful of clerics did gather at Syntagma Square to protest the event, no incidents were reported and the march proceeded peacefully.

The event was addressed by representatives of the Democratic Left and SYRIZA parties, as well as by the City of Athens. It was also attended by representatives from the embassies of the United States, Germany, Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands, as well as gay rights groups from other parts of Europe.

Organizers put the number of participants at around 5,000 people.

The LGBT communities of the northern port city of Thessaloniki are slated to hold their own pride parade next weekend, despite recent statements by the city’s Bishop Anthimos, who has petitioned for its cancellation after slamming it as a “sinful” event.

“I have in my possession a big file with verified signatures of 20,000 Greek citizens, men and women, who want this event to be cancelled by all means,” the Thessaloniki Bishop said of the festival which is scheduled to take place on June 14 and 15.

“If it is not cancelled, they cannot guarantee that nothing will happen,” he added.