June 25, 2000 02:56pm
Thousands of Brazilians Parade for Gay Rights
(SAO PAULO) -- Thousands of Brazilians streamed down a central Sao Paulo avenue on Sunday in the city's fourth Gay Pride Parade.
Transvestites and gay supporters in bright costumes danced to live music and carried banners demanding an end to hate crimes and prejudice in Latin America's biggest country, local media reported.
``We are going to parade so that people see that we are many, how we're different one from another, how we're just like the rest of the world,'' pamphlets for the parade announced.
Up to 120,000 people converged on Brazil's biggest city, stretching down Sao Paulo's main financial avenue, Folha Online reported, citing police figures.
One drag queen dressed as a Carmen Miranda-like Statue of Liberty demanded more freedom of speech while another man with a rainbow colored Mohican hairstyle donned a shirt with a big red stripe crossing out a swastika.
Rio de Janeiro is well known for its gay parades during Carnival, but Sao Paulo is an important center for the gay pride movement. With 16 million people it is a symbol of Brazil's ethnic diversity, boasting large Japanese, Jewish and Middle Eastern communities.
Still, gay rights activists warn Brazil is far from a safe haven. Earlier this year in Sao Paulo, a group of 30 skinheads ganged up on two homosexual men and savagely beat one of them to death.
The parade which only lured 500 bold protesters onto the streets in its first year in 1996, boosted the number of supporters to 35,000 last year and appeared to have exceeded expectations of 100,000 activists in this year's parade.