LGBTQ people in Hong Kong celebrated Pride Saturday following a police ban on the annual march.
Rather than a parade, attendees were only allowed to gather in a “public meeting,” reported the Straits Times.
Members of the LGBTQ community expressed disappointment that the police would use the months of protests in Hong Kong as a reason to prohibit the march.
"The pride parade has always been orderly, peaceful and well-disciplined," said Ray Chan, a gay Hong Kong lawmaker, to the Straits Times. "There is no reason for the police to reject the pride parade application ... It has nothing to do with the recent protests."
Hong Kong has hosted Pride parades for a decade, with roughly 12,000 people gathering last year to demand rights including anti-discrimination protections and marriage equality. This was the first time police had denied the application for a march.
"We are lucky to have paved the way for the next generation to grow up as who they are," Chan tweeted on Saturday.
Organizers said that about 6,500 people attended the rally this year, with the new anti-mask law and fears of public tension contributing to the drop in turnout, reported the South China Morning Post.
A 17-year-old named Mo told the South China Morning Post that it was a “pity” that police had banned the march.
“Every year, the pride parade is held. Police had only rejected this year’s march two days before despite an application being filed much earlier,” said Mo, who identified himself as a protester who had helped build roadblocks and extinguish tear gas canisters thrown by police.
“I believe when there is no police presence, everything will be peaceful,” Mo said.
Leading pro-democracy and LGBTQ rights activist Jimmy Sham said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that he saw the parade’s cancellation as a sign of citizens’ endangered rights.
Sham was hospitalized last month after being attacked by five men with hammers. "The government is not willing to listen to the people," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Only when the minorities and disadvantaged groups are protected and secure will the general public be secure.”
Also on Saturday, mainland Chinese soldiers garrisoned in Hong Kong made their first public appearance since the protests began this summer.
The move alarmed many in Hong Kong, who wondered if the troops were acting to clear streets of debris on the invitation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.