Despite the hostile attitude of the Polish government towards the LGBT community, thousands took to the streets in Saturday for an Equality march.

Organisers estimate about 20,000 people took part.

“This was the largest parade we’ve held in Poland,” parade organizer Tomasz Baczkowski said.

“Polish society has opened its eyes and they know what democracy, equality and diversity mean.”

There was a minor demonstration by All-Polish Youth, but they were vastly outnumbered by the Equality marchers.

Gay activists and others carried rainbow flags and placards condemning homophobia on their march from the Parliament building to the centre of the city. There was a heavy police presence.

When Warsaw marchers defied a ban and peacefully demonstrated in 2004, skinheads associated with the far-right All-Polish Youth assaulted them.

The All-Polish Youth is affiliated with the League of Polish Families, and was founded in 1989 by Education Minister Mr Giertych. The party is in govenment with Mr Kaczynski’s party

The Mayor of Warsaw last week rejected calls from the youth wing to ban the Equality march.

Hanna Gronkiewicz Walz told Polish radio that any ban would contradict the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

Earlier this month the Strasbourg-based court ruled that the ban on the 2005 Pride event in Warsaw was a violation of human rights. The seven judges, including one from Poland, were unanimous.

The ECHR agreed that freedom of association and assembly, prohibition of discrimination and the right to an effective remedy had been denied, all of which are guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.

President Lech Kaczynski, the former leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party, has long opposed lesbian and gay people’s rights to expression and assembly.

When serving as mayor of Warsaw, he attempted to ban Gay Pride marches in 2004 and 2005.

He refused to meet with the parade organisers, saying, “I am not willing to meet perverts.”

The march came just days after Poland’s right-wing education minister Roman Giertych confirmed his intention to bring forward a version of Section 28 in Poland.