Gay parade in Sao Paulo gathers more than 1 million

More than 1 million people filled the streets of Sao Paulo for the world's largest gay pride parade, dancing and waving rainbow flags in a carnival-like atmosphere to condemn homophobia, racism and sexism.

More than 3 million people are expected to attend the city's 11th annual parade, which drew some 2.5 million last year, said organizers, who called it the biggest gay pride event anywhere.

Just an hour after the parade began, "a little more than 1 million people" had already packed Sao Paulo's main Paulista Avenue, said a police spokesman who is not authorized to be quoted by name under department rules. "I don't think they will have any trouble surpassing last year's figures."

Trucks blasting music rolled down the skyscraper-lined street, followed by marchers carrying banners with slogans such as "Dignity for All," and "All Forms of Love Bring Us Closer to God."

"The impact of the Sao Paulo gay pride parade has allowed our movement to speak up this year about what we want to achieve through our mobilization: A world where racism, sexism and homophobia, in all their forms, no longer exist, parade organizer Nelson Matias Pereira said.

"In an atmosphere like this we find the strength to tell society that we should not be discriminated against because of our sexual preferences," said 28-year-old mechanic Sebastiao Pereira Rodrigues, clad in skimpy black leather shorts and a tight purple T-shirt.

"There is no question the prejudice we have suffered for years has diminished a lot," he added, "but it's still there and we still a long way to go."

Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab and Tourism Minister Marta Suplicy - an avid supporter of gay rights - were to address the crowds in between live concerts.