SINGAPORE - The sixth annual Pink Dot event went ahead smoothly at Hong Lim Park on Saturday despite a contentious lead up in recent weeks that saw a Wear White movement being organised to protest against it.
Organisers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group's annual rally said that 26,000 people had turned up, breaking last year's record of 21,000.
The event, in its sixth year, also had security guards for the first time, hired to maintain order. But any fears of trouble turned out to be unfounded and organisers confirmed that there were no hecklers that they were aware of.
Leading up to the event, Muslim and Christian groups had come out to speak against it, saying that promoting homosexuality would undermine family values.
A Wear White movement, started by Muslim religious teacher Noor Deros to symbolize "purity" and family values, also kicked off on Saturday, the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Throughout the day, supporters had posted on Facebook pictures of themselves dressed in white. Organisers said that they had gotten more than 300 such pictures from supporters.
At the Ar-raudhah Mosque, where some of the Wear White organisers went for evening prayers to mark the start of Ramadan, a group of 40 had also turned up in white in support of the movement.
Mr Noor did not to show up due to the media glare, supporters said, but had gone to Hajar Consultancy Services at Joo Chiat Complex, where he teaches religious classes.
At mosques around Singapore, there were also those who lamented that the religious act of wearing white should not be "hijacked" for the purpose of protesting against homosexuality.
The Wear White movement had won the support of outspoken pastor Lawrence Khong from the Faith Community Baptist Church, who called on members from his church, as well as the Love Singapore network of 100 over churches, to wear white too.
Before the Wear White movement was launched, Touch Family Services had wanted to hold a family picnic named the Red Dot Family Moment on the same day as Pink Dot.
But the non-profit organisation, which comes under Touch Community Services whose board Mr Khong chairs, cancelled the event after the Urban Redevelopment Authority rejected its application to hold it at the Padang.
Pink Dot would be happy to have a dialogue with Mr Khong, but added that they had not directly contacted him, said spokesman Paerin Choa said at a press conference.
During the event that started in the evening, participants showed their support for the "freedom to love" regardless of his sexual orientation or gender identity, by baking pink cupcakes, dyeing their hair pink and waving rainbow flags.
Organisers said that the event had no "political message" and that they only wanted to encourage more "inclusiveness" in society.
Pink Dot, first held in 2009, has continued to draw bigger crowds each year, and has attracted corporate sponsors such as Google and investment bank Goldman Sachs. It has also been exported overseas, with Hong Kong holding it's first Pink Dot gathering earlier this month.