Thousands line the streets as Belfast hosts its biggest ever Pride Parade.

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Elfast hosted its biggest Pride parade ever as more than 60,000 people filled the city’s streets for the event’s post-pandemic return.

The parade was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 emergency.

In 2019, an estimated 60,000 participants and spectators packed downtown.

Police believe that it escalated with the return of the colorful procession on Saturday.

Three years ago, 135 groups registered to participate in the parade.

Organizers had to close the application window early after receiving 200 group registrations this year.

PSNI Superintendent Gerard Pollock said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for their help in making today’s Belfast Pride Parade run smoothly.

Organizers had to close the application window early after receiving 200 group registrations (Mark Marlowe/PA) / PA Wire

“This is the first parade since 2019 and our initial estimate is that it will be bigger than 2019, making this year’s event the biggest Pride parade ever.”

The theme of the event was “Community United in Diversity” and a group of asylum seekers and refugees who have made Belfast their home, to lead a raucous march on its way through the city centre. was invited.

With no rain until the end of the parade, there was a carnival atmosphere.

PSNI and Garda officers took part in the parade, walking alongside UK forces including representatives from South Wales, West Mercia, Derbyshire and British Transport Police.

Members of East Belfast GAA Club (Mark Marlowe/PA) / PA Wire

This year Ulster Rugby also took part, with fly-half Ian Madigan among those parading through the city. Players from the Belfast Eagles, a predominantly gay rugby club, also joined the parade.

The GAA was also well represented, with Ulster GAA taking part along with a number of clubs including East Belfast GAA.

Cara McCann, co-chairman of the Belfast Pride Festival, said enthusiasm was a factor in the parade’s return.

“People have been fed up with sitting at home for the last two years and I think that’s why our numbers are up today,” he said.

Members of the Police Service for Northern Ireland (Mark Marlow/PA) / PA Wire

“But I also think there’s been an increase in pride in general and people just want to participate.”

Ms McCann said it was remarkable how much the event had grown over three decades.

“I think the first short Dander was 30 years ago with less than 100 people on that little walk and it was a really nerve-wracking thing to do then, and it was very brave for the people who had gone before us. For this first pride.

“It’s grown globally but it’s also grown massively locally.”

More than 60,000 people took to the streets of the city (Mark Marlowe/PA) / PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriage was lifted at the start of 2020, just before the pandemic, so Saturday’s Pride parade was the first in the city since the landmark law change.

Fellow festival co-chairman John O’Doherty said the event provided a belated opportunity to celebrate.

“We are really excited to have the opportunity to celebrate the introduction of equal marriage, which we haven’t been able to do in the last three years,” he said.

“So there is much to celebrate today.

Belfast Pride Parade (Mark Marlow/PA) / PA Wire

“But we still need to do a lot of campaigning to make sure we have full equality for our community.”

Mr Polk added: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland has been involved in the Pride Festival for many years.

“Pride is an important series of events for people who identify as LGBT+ and we don’t just see it as an opportunity to highlight that hate crime, in any form, is wrong and It’s important to report this, but also support for members of the LGBT+ community to engage with it and share it with us.

“Hate crime should not be tolerated and victims should feel confident that when they contact the police their concerns will be taken seriously and responded to appropriately.”

As the parade passed, a small group of religious protesters demonstrated against the Pride event outside Belfast City Hall.