Big turnout at Pink Dot gathering

Big turnout at Pink Dot gathering
Annual Pink Dot event.

The annual Pink Dot gathering proceeded without incident yesterday, despite a contentious lead-up in recent weeks that saw religious groups speaking out against the annual event and organisers hiring security guards as a precaution.

Organisers said a record 26,000 people attended the concert-cum-mass picnic, held at Hong Lim Park for the sixth year running.

Participants turned up for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) event dressed in pink to show their support for the "freedom to love" regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

About 20 security officers were seen on patrol. They were hired for the first time to respond "if anything happens", event spokesman Paerin Choa told reporters before the event. But there was no trouble reported.

Leading up to the event, Muslim and Christian groups had spoken up against it, saying homosexuality undermined family values.

Mr Choa said "the extent of this year's negativity has been unprecedented".

Attendance at the event has grown from 2,500 the first time it was held, in 2009, to 21,000 last year.

Over the years, it has also attracted big-name sponsors such as Google, Barclays, BP, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, and the nearby hotel ParkRoyal on Pickering.

Muslim religious teacher Noor Deros launched a Wear White campaign asking Muslims to dress in white as a symbol of "purity" and to signal their opposition to homosexuality. It kicked off yesterday, the eve of the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The movement won the support of Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church, who has urged members from his church and the LoveSingapore network of more than 100 churches to wear white this weekend.

Referring to these developments, Mr Choa said yesterday: "We're not here to create strife in society. We want to let people know that gay people are very much like everyone else. We love our families... we don't understand why being LGBT, or pushing for our freedom to love, undermines any family values."

Among those at the Pink Dot event were actors Selena Tan and Sebastian Tan who sang to the crowd. Blogger Mr Miyagi, urban artist Samantha Lo and lawyer M. Ravi spoke about experiences of the LGBT community here.

Other recognisable faces included Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh, who was an event ambassador, social activist Vincent Wijeysingha and blogger Roy Ngerng.

About 20 people told The Sunday Times that the Wear White campaign did not affect their decision to attend.

Full-time national serviceman Wong An Jie, 20, however, showed up for the first time to make a point.

While acknowledging that supporters of the Wear White campaign had a right to be heard, he said: "With this Wear White campaign, the supporters of the freedom to love have to band together even more. Those sitting on the fence should attend too, and not become part of the silent majority."

The rally drew to a close with its traditional formation of a "pink dot" at sunset, as participants - standing in the shape of a circle enclosing a heart - held up torches, mobile phones and light sticks.

It coincided with fireworks from the National Day Parade rehearsal happening nearby.

Given the attendance, Mr Choa said the organisers will apply for a larger venue in future.

"However, we also understand that the Government has different sensitivities to balance, and we respect (its) decision," he added.

This article was first published on June 29, 2014.
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