THOUSANDS OF people lined the streets of central Manchester last Saturday to celebrate the Mardi Gras gay and lesbian festival, despite the poor weather and threats of cancellation. The police, backed by Manchester's Labour council, had refused to allow more than one street in Manchester's gay village to be designated for drinking alcohol.
The organisers of the event then cancelled it saying that it would be dangerous to cram up to 100,000 people into such a small area. The outrage forced the police and the council to back down, and allow another street to be added to the Mardi Gras area.
There was huge anger among people that the police and the council had almost forced one of Europe's largest gay and lesbian festivals to be cancelled. There was also bitterness among many people attending about the increased commercialisation of gay and lesbian events.
Many of the people on the flamboyant floats waved political placards attacking the council and the police. 'The run-up to Mardi Gras was an absolute farce,' Kevin Cheetwood from Manchester told Socialist Worker. 'There has never been trouble at Mardi Gras before. It's turning into an event where profit is put first. The same is happening in London to Pride. Less and less people are coming to these events.'
'This shouldn't be about what the council says,' said Elaine Ward, who had travelled from Chester with her Utopia gay and lesbian support group. 'We should do it anyway and stuff them. Profit and money shouldn't be the driving factor.' 'They let the racist BNP have their fun day out recently, but we find it difficult to have our day,' said Lisa Southwark from Blackburn.
Hundreds of people signed the 'Pride Not Profit' petition, which called for the police and the council to keep their hands off Mardi Gras.