By Lucy Nicholson
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people dressed in rainbow attire and waving protest signs walked en masse through Los Angeles on Sunday in a “Resist March” against U.S. President Donald Trump, an event that took the place of the city’s annual Pride parade.
The 3-mile (4.8km) walk began in Hollywood and culminated with a rally in gay-friendly West Hollywood featuring Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of U.S. House of Representatives, the city’s liberal Mayor Eric Garcetti and drag queen icon RuPaul.
“We’re people,” said Mary Demasters, 29, who wore a rainbow cape draped over her shoulders and a rainbow sticker on cheek. “We deserve to be treated like people, all of us, no matter what our differences are. We’re all people.”
Reflecting this year’s emphasis on the common ground of liberal causes, including LGBT rights, Demasters carried a placard that read: “When you come for one of us, you come for all of us.”
The event brought together a range of groups at the forefront of the country’s most contentious political issues, including Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union and GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy organization.
“This was not the year for parades. This was the year to take to the streets and march,” said Stephen Macias, a spokesman for the organizers, highlighting the wave of protests across the country since Trump’s election in November.
“The march is still about celebrating our community but it’s also about recognizing the climate we live in and the delicate balance around civil rights,” Macias said.
The decision to shift the event’s emphasis drew criticism from some in Southern California’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and “queer” community, who say the one day of the year set aside to celebrate their LGBTQ identities should not be given over to other political causes.
It marks the second year in a row that Los Angeles Pride organizers have faced dissension. In 2016, some activists boycotted pride events on the grounds that they had lost their focus on the larger gay community to become a music festival catering largely younger people.
Macias said the complaints about this year’s Resist March reflected a misunderstanding about the intentions of the organizers. The weekend would still feature gay pride festivities across the Los Angeles area, he said.
“The march is still about celebrating our community but it’s also about recognizing the climate we live in and the delicate balance around civil rights,” he said.
The march this year was staged a day after anti-corporate protesters briefly blocked the route of a Washington, D.C., pride parade, in part to voice their opposition to such backers as Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N> and weapons maker Northrop Grumman Corp <NOC.N>.
The Washington protesters also demanded the addition of a transgender minority woman to the board of organizer Capital Pride Alliance, and that the parade bar police officers from marching.
In response, Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, released a statement on Sunday acknowledging the importance of considering differing points of view.
“We encourage a robust, civil, and healthy conversation within the community about all of the issues that impact us and look forward to having a mutually respectful conversation in the days, weeks, and months ahead,” Bos said.
Gay pride events are scheduled for major cities across the United States this month, some of them this weekend.
In San Francisco, pride organizers have not dropped their parade in favor of a protest but the SF Weekly newspaper reported that the event would include a “resistance contingent” and an immigrant rights speaker.
The owner of the shuttered Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, is set to open its doors early on Monday in remembrance of victims of a mass shooting there on June 12, 2016, that killed 49 people.
(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Barbara Goldberg in New York and Lacey Johnson in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Richard Chang)