30 attend London East End gay Pride march
An East End Gay Pride march was quietly held in Tower Hamlets on Saturday with just a few dozen people.
Marchers walked from King Edward Memorial Park in Shadwell to Poplar Park carrying rainbow flags while a heavy police presence kept watch.
Twenty-one police officers were posted to the small event, while a police helicopter hovered above.
Marchers said they received some anti-gay abuse from drivers, although the event was generally peaceful.
Last month, a Pride parade to be held on the same day was cancelled after it was revealed that one of the organisers, Raymond Berry, was a former member of the English Defence League.
The event became controversial as local groups Rainbow Hamlets and Out East accused the march of being a front for the EDL.
They also claimed that it would cause tensions between gay people and Muslims in the area after homophobic stickers were plastered on buildings.
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Saturday’s small event, billed as an ‘East End Gay Pride Gathering and March’, was organised by web consultant Joseph Newman-Saunders, who defended his decision not to publicise it.
He said he had spread the word about the event on Facebook groups and that it was “not about publicity”.
Mr Newman-Saunders, who said that 30 people joined the march, said: “It wasn’t about religion or getting press attention.”
He added: “This event is a clear signal that LGBT people are very proud to be part of the rich and diverse communities of London’s East End.
“I hope this peaceful, non-political and non-religious initiative provokes a much-needed debate about how we can build a tolerant, cohesive society in which everyone can live together without discrimination or intimidation.”
Jack Gilbert of Rainbow Hamlets, who criticised the decision to hold the original march, said: “Given our concerns, we are pleased that the event passed without incident.
“However, when less than 20 people attended, this does not constitute a Pride march.”
He added that a “large-scale” Pride event would be announced later in the year.