Thousands march in South Africa’s 1st Pride since COVID-19 in Soweto as world watches
The first Pride parade in South Africa since COVID-19 in Soweto has ended with violence, arrests and more than 20 arrests.
For the second year running, thousands of LGBTI people took part in the first Pride parade in South Africa since a coronavirus-related lockdown. But, following warnings from the United Nations human rights commission, most people were not wearing masks or washing hands and many were still in groups or at their own homes.
“This protest has always been based on the fact that we have had enough of the violence, the fear, the fear of being attacked,” said one participant, who only gave his first name, Michael Botes.
The parade was organised by non-governmental organisation, the Rainbow Warriors, in collaboration with a local activist group, the Free Sowetan Movement. Rainbow Warriors started organising Pride parades to mark the beginning of the anti-apartheid movement and Gay Pride marches – since 1979 – are held to remember the end of the system.
The Free Sowetan Movement is organising itself to mark the anniversary of Pride marches. The organisation was formed during the apartheid years by an LGBTI activist who ran away from a police station. “He never wanted to talk about his past, he always chose to run away from the police to continue to fight,” said the organization’s secretary.
This year, in the wake of COVID-19, which has shut down most South African cities, the Pride march was one of many events being organised in cities across the country, including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria. In a country where only 11.6% of the population are lesbian, gay or bisexual, the visibility of the movement is significant after the country was the first to introduce gay marriage, when it granted same-sex couples the right to