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Amsterdam floods pink for Gay Pride festival, many protest Putin and anti-gay laws in Russia

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AMSTERDAM -- Rainbow flags are flying from scores of Amsterdam buildings as tens of thousands of festival-goers, many dressed in pink or wearing studded leather, party it up at one of the city's biggest events: the annual Gay Pride celebration.

The Saturday festivities center on a colorful boat flotilla sailing through the city's ancient canals, each with its own theme, pumping out dance music.

Notable floats this year include a boat organized by the Netherlands' soccer association. Former soccer greats, including striker Patrick Kluivert and defender Ronald de Boer, are riding along, together with national team coach Louis van Gaal.

"We want to send a signal to accept homosexuality in the (soccer) world," Van Gaal said shortly before setting sail.

Tolerance for homosexuality is a point of pride in the Netherlands, which became the first to legalize gay marriage back in 2001

Yet the soccer world is widely regarded as unreceptive to gay athletes. One of the few openly gay former players, Wensley Garden of Helmond Sport, was also on the soccer boat.

A number of vessels carried banners or signs slamming Russia's President Vladimir Putin, due in part to a law passed by Russia's lower house of parliament in June that bans gay "propaganda."

"Putin, Stop Repression, Choose Freedom," one banner said.

The Netherlands' Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and other members of his political party were on a boat wearing t-shirts emblazoned with "Gay Rights for Russia."

Dijsselbloem told local newspaper Het Parool that gay rights in Russia are "headed in the wrong direction."

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