Several thousand spectators have gathered for the start of a controversial Gay Pride event being held in canton Valais this weekend.This content was published on July 8, 2001 - 17:53
The programme began with a parade through the streets of the cantonal capital, Sion. Accompanied by a strong police presence, the march passed off without any major incidents.
Hostile declarations published by an ultra-conservative group, RomanDit, in March in a local newspaper had sparked fears of potential clashes during the Gay Pride. Instead, some 50 members of the group protested peacefully with songs and prayers at the cathedral.
Speakers at the start of the event asked for support to combat discriminatory behaviour against homosexuals.
The president of Switzerland's Pink Cross, François Baur, called for a more "courageous and open" society. He also asked employers to establish contacts with gay rights groups.
According to police estimates, more than 10,000 onlookers gathered to hear the speeches.
swissinfo with agencies
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