SAN DIEGO (CNS) - More than 240 LGBTQ organizations, schools, churches, businesses, government agencies and elected officials were gearing up in every color of the rainbow Saturday morning in preparation for the San Diego Pride Parade, which got under way just before 11 a.m.
Annually one of the largest Pride celebrations in the country, this year's parade was expected to draw a crowd of close to 200,000 along its 1.1- mile route starting at the Hillcrest Pride Flag, proceeding west on University Avenue, turning south on Sixth Avenue, left on Balboa Drive and ending at Quince Drive.
The parade caps two days of celebrations and festivities that began at 5 p.m. Friday with the official Pride Block Party and the Spirit of Stonewall Rally. The rally honored the 1969 Stonewall riots that are largely credited with sparking the modern gay-rights movement, when patrons of New York City's Stonewall Inn rioted in the face of police harassment.
WEEKEND EVENTS: San Diego Pride events take over Hillcrest, Balboa Park
Pride celebrations continued Saturday morning with the Pride 5K as crowds began lining University Avenue in Hillcrest in anticipation of the parade.
The parade will include a motorcycle contingent, a youth marching band made up of high school band members and, for the seventh straight year, a military contingent. In 2011, San Diego Pride became the first pride parade in the nation to feature a contingent specifically for service members and veterans.
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Helping to lead this year's parade are Delores A. Jacobs, the longest- serving chief executive officer of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, who was honored at Friday's Spirit of Stonewall Rally with the Champion of Pride award; Susan Jester, a longtime LGBTQ activist who was named a Community Grand Marshal at Friday's rally; and Russell Roybal, the deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, who was also named a Community Grand Marshal.
The theme of this year's parade is "Allied in Action: United for Justice." But this year, not everyone feels as if San Diego Pride is truly allied or united. Reverend Shane Harris, the chapter director of the National Action Network San Diego, will boycott Saturday's Pride Parade "due to a lack of African-American LGBTQ issues" being addressed by San Diego Pride, he announced Saturday.
"Right now, racial injustices are at an all-time high in America, where black and brown people are being killed at an all-time high, and Pride hasn't done much of anything to confront these injustices of black and brown people during their annual weekend nor over the course of the year," Harris said in a statement. "I also am not happy with the leadership of pride this year due to the loss of former executive director Stephen Whitburn, who was committed to true intersection and leadership for all people."
Harris announced he would lead a "No Justice, No Pride" protest Saturday at noon at Sixth Avenue and Upas Street, about three blocks from the end of the parade route. A Facebook page for the protest said the group would be demonstrating against "corporate sponsorship to not only pride, but such disastrous, murderous projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline. We resist police presence in our community and fight against the erasure of black and brown lives, and we honor the lives of our sisters who have been murdered in acts of hatred to the trans community."
A spokeswoman for San Diego Pride pointed to the fact that several predominantly African-American groups are participating in the parade, including the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition and the San Diego Black Panthers.
"We support everything they stand for," Chloe Janda said. "The theme this year is `Allied in Action: United for Justice.' We work for all causes and against racism and all social injustices."
San Diego Pride picked this year's theme specifically because of the "tough political climate" and wanting to address "more than just issues of the LGBTQ community," Janda said.
Addressing the departure of Whitburn, who was dismissed by the organization's board last year, Janda said San Diego Pride is in good hands under the leadership of its new executive director, Eric Heinritz.