San Diego’s annual Pride celebration in Hillcrest is underway and Saturday morning brought the biggest event of the weekend: the famous Pride Parade.
With floats and colorful balloons galore, more than 240 LGBT organizations, schools, churches, businesses, government agencies and elected officials – including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer – marched in the parade. Faulconer is a national chair for the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry program, which works with mayors across the country to be active advocates for the marriage of same-sex couples.
The procession – attended by thousands of spectators – began at 11 a.m. the Hillcrest Pride Flag and made its way to Quince Drive near Balboa Park. Along the way, floats showcased this year’s parade theme, “Allied in Action: United for Justice.”
As always, the 43rd annual Pride Parade aimed to shine the spotlight on the importance of inclusion and diversity, and support the LGBT community.
It was also a time to reflect on how far the community has come over the past four decades.
“If you look back to 1974, when we had the first San Diego Pride March, it was just a handful of brave activists in downtown San Diego, many of them marching with bags over their heads to protect their identities and make sure that they didn’t lose their jobs,” Cal Strode, the communications manager for San Diego Pride, told NBC 7 on Saturday. “Think of how far we’ve come today – being one of the biggest celebrations in San Diego; one of the largest civic events in the region.”
“Things have improved tremendously,” he added. “And, we really stand on the shoulders of those activists who went before us.”
Strode said this year’s theme is fitting, as many in the community feel division.
“People are feeling like their rights are under attack right now, so it’s a real message of unity,” Strode said.
Parade attendees Shannon Hurley and Dylan Phillips told NBC 7 they were excited to partake in the Pride celebrations. The women were on a float with members of Hurley's church.
"(Pride) is about embracing who you are," said Phillips.
Another participant, Frances Eichhorn, said this marked her first time marching in the parade. A few years back, she was a spectator.
"Today I'm able to support my friends, myself and all of these other beautiful people," she said. "It feels great."
Eichhorn said San Diego Pride has opened many doors for the LGBT community.
"It opens so many different doors, to love, who you truly want to love," she said. "What your heart feels like; who you want to love, is not who society tells you to love. It's important to me that you follow your heart. It does not matter, man or woman."
Amid the party, demonstrators held a peaceful “No Justice No Pride” rally at 6th Avenue and Upas Street near Balboa Park, claiming the Pride Parade is too corporate and marginalizes minorities in the LGBT community. They held signs that read “Corporations Out of Pride.”
Demonstrator Syra Evans said the rally was aimed to remember the activists who founded the Pride Parade and their work.
"We need to center our voices and reclaim the reality that our existence is important," said Evans.
The San Diego Police Department said no arrests were made at the peaceful protest.
The Pride party continued after the parade with the San Diego Pride Music Festival at Balboa Park, which runs from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and again on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets to the music fest are $20.
For a complete guide to San Diego Pride, including details on events, where to park and road closures, click here.