Hundreds of thousands turn out for Gay Pride in Amsterdam

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Hundreds of thousands of people thronged Amsterdam's streets to celebrate the city's 16th Gay Pride parade Saturday, organisers said.

Techno and electro music played out at full strength, matching the cheers and applause of spectators watching a parade of at least 80 extravagantly decorated boats go past.

This year's "floats" featured pirates wearing nothing more than black underwear and brandishing pink swords, dancers with colourful feathers and a huge blow-up rainbow spanning the length of the boat.

For the first time, the Dutch defence ministry commissioned its own boat for the parade, which had gay soldiers on board.

Police did not provide a figure for the attendance.

The Gay Pride attracts huge numbers of the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals) community and has become an important celebration of gay rights.

"Every year it's a huge party because we can go out in plain daylight and show who we are and because we can show people what gay culture is like," said 23-year-old Malik, attending the festival with his boyfriend.

Vera Bergkamp, president of COC, one of the largest associations for gays and lesbians in the world, said the struggle for gay rights continues.

"In the Netherlands we have what we call tolerance at a distance", she said. "People are tolerant as long as homosexuality stays out of their view".

A significant number of heterosexuals attended this year's festival, whose theme was "All Together Now", many of them dressed in pink.

"Maybe that means homosexuality is getting more accepted", said Mieke van Driel, 46, watching the spectacle with her girlfriend.

Saturday's parade was the culmination of six days of concerts, art exhibitions and a gay film festival.

On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage. An estimated one million Dutch people are gay.

© 2011 AFP

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