Rioting in 1969 at at Lower Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn inspired theme of this year’s San Diego Pride Parade. Photo by Chris Stone

Fifty years ago, police raiding a New York City gay bar sparked a riot and ignited a movement.

Saturday in San Diego, armed officers, including some on rooftops, guarded thousands of spectators along a 1.5-mile parade route celebrating “Stonewall 50: Legacy of Liberation.”

More than 200 units marched on University and Sixth avenues in Hillcrest in honor of the gay rights riots a half-century ago at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

A motorcycle unit starts the San Diego Pride Parade on University Avenue. Photo by Chris Stone

Parade units included community groups, universities, businesses, health centers and religious groups.

Politicians attending included San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; City Council members Georgette Gomez, Monica Montgomery and Chris Ward; California Senate President Toni Atkins; Assemblyman Todd Gloria; Congress members Juan Vargas, Mike Levin and Susan Davis; Supervisor Nathan Fletcher; and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

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Transgender members of the military marched as well as military members of the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army and National Guard.

“I think that San Diego is doing a great job,” said Lt. Col. Tom Keegan of the California Air National Guard, before the parade. “I think they are open and inviting to all people who want to be here, and we’re happy to support the communities that we serve.”

“It’s important that all the folks through all the communities realize that we are their military. We are representative all the communities from which we come and I think that is very important that they see that we are proud to be here,” said Keegan, who walked with other former and active military members.

Elisabeth Gibbons, who is transgender and served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years said, “It’s good to see such a strong support for the LGBTQ community, I know especially in the military.

Regarding transgender persons serving in the military, Gibbons said, “There is nothing medically, mentally, anything wrong with us. We are able to serve. Nothing stopped me.”

San Diego Pride also continued its 45th annual celebration Saturday with a 5K run and the beginning of a two-day festival at Balboa Park.

According to San Diego Pride, the parade is the sixth largest Pride event in America and attracts more than 250,000 people each year.

The parade ended at Balboa Park’s Marston Point, the site of the two-day Pride Festival.

In addition to the police presence on the street, police were stationed on some roof tops along the route. Photo by Chris Stone

The festival attracts more than 45,000 people each year, according to San Diego Pride, and features more than 100 musical acts on four stages. Singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer King Princess headlined the festival Saturday while singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge will headline the festival Sunday.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that launched the modern-day LGBTQ civil rights movement, our Pride theme is ‘A Legacy of Liberation,’ and I can think of no one better to embody that spirit than Melissa Etheridge,” said San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Lopez.

“Her decades of meaningful music and inspired advocacy continue to connect the LGBTQ community and carve a better path forward both here and around the world.”

The full festival lineup and a map of the festival’s layout can be found at sdpride.org. Tickets start at $20 online for one-day general admission and $25 for weekend-long general admission. Tickets will also be available at the festival’s entrance.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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