Madrid WorldPride parade takes place amidst heightened security

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Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world gathered on the streets of Madrid on Saturday to take part in the massive international WorldPride march to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights around the globe.

Around 40 floats set off at 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) under the slogan of “Viva la vida!” (Live life!) and countless rainbow flags, processing down the center of Madrid.

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The event’s organizers and Madrid authorities estimated that between one and two million people would take part in Saturday’s parade in the Spanish capital, which has become a global center for LGBT openness.

Posters and banners with the motto “Whoever you love, Madrid loves you” were displayed around the city, including at the popular Plaza Mayor square.

The parade also coincides with the 40th anniversary of Spain’s first LGBT parade that took place in Barcelona in 1977.

The WorldPride festival has been taking place in Madrid since June 22 with several events including concerts and a large human rights conference.

Contestants take part in the annual race on high heels during World Pride celebrations in the quarter of Chueca in Madrid, Spain

Earlier on Saturday, contenstants took part in an annual high heel race in Madrid’s Chueca quarter

Glitz, glam and heightened security

The WorldPride march is taking place at a time of high tensions in Europe following a string of deadly attacks.

Thousands of firefighters, police and other security agents are on site for the event and two emergency lanes for possible evacuations have been set up along the parade route. Traffic restrictions and bag searches have also been put in place.

“There is no specific terrorist threat but a generalized threat,” German Castineira, operations chief for Madrid police, told reporters this week.

It’s the fifth WorldPride parade to take place since the event was started in 2000. This year, organizers called for participants to protest in solidarity with those who cannot raise their voices in in places like Russia’s Chechnya.

Read more:¬†Gay couple from Balkans now live ‘without fear’ in Germany

Some of the participants in the LGBT community have criticized the presence of floats sponsored by large companies such as Google, Netflix and eBay, saying the event is becoming too commercialized.

In 2005, Spain legalized same-sex marriage, following the Netherlands and Belgium.

Germany joined other European nations by approving same-sex marriage and adoption in a Bundestag vote on Friday.

rs/jm (AFP, dpa)

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