MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Let's go now to Sao Paolo, Brazil, where a huge crowd has gathered for the annual gay pride parade. Here is the scene from earlier this afternoon.
MARTIN: Sao Paolo's pride parade is traditionally one of the largest in the world, but this year's event is taking place in a particularly politically charged atmosphere. It's the first since the arrival in office of Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who's described himself as homophobic and very proud of it. NPR's Philip Reeves is still at the parade, and he is with us now. Philip, thanks so much for joining us.
PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: You're welcome.
MARTIN: So describe the scene for us, if you would.
REEVES: Well, this City Hall authorities here say they were expecting a crowd of some 3 million people. I don't know whether it comes close to that, but it is a very large gathering. People are festooned with the multiple colors of the LGBT+ pride movement. There are brilliantly colored balloons, lavish costumes, people dancing, lots of music, floats, tons of noise and very much a carnival-like atmosphere that is reminiscent of the carnival held in Brazil in the summertime - and so much noise, actually, that we've had to come a long way away from it in order to be able to hear ourselves talk, you know.
MARTIN: Well, sure. So - and of course, as we said, this is taking place against the backdrop of Bolsonaro's election in October. And, Philip, as you've reported, the LGBTQ community in Brazil was very concerned that, given his expressly stated hostility toward them, that they would lose their civil rights. Has that happened?
REEVES: Yeah. I mean, they were so concerned that a month after Bolsonaro won that landslide victory, same-sex marriages here went up by about two-thirds because people were worried that they would lose those rights. Since then, though, the LGBT+ movement has actually secured a victory when the Supreme Court here voted to criminalize homophobic behavior. That said, Bolsonaro is notorious in Brazil for a number of remarks. Years ago, he said that he'd rather have a dead son than a gay son.
Since he's been in office, he's continued making remarks that have very much upset the LGBT+ community. He's talked about not wanting Brazil to be a center for gay tourism. And he's launched recently a personal attack on a gay activist who was elected to Congress but has left the country because he's concerned for his safety under this government - Jair Bolsonaro's. Now, the president's defenders say these are words, not deeds. But people here say words matter. Listen, for example, to Bruno Marco, who is 33 and a sociologist.
BRUNO MARCO: This kind of speech is gaining force, is getting stronger. And we have to stay here on the streets just to say, no, you are not right. We have rights. And we are here for the rights.
MARTIN: So, Philip, given all of that, I mean, does this huge turnout today tell us something about the standing of Bolsonaro's government or does it tell us perhaps about the commitment of the activists in Brazil? What does it tell us?
REEVES: I do think this reflects a mood of defiance. And I think that defiance is growing here because Bolsonaro's having trouble getting his administration off the ground. He's facing a scandal that's recently erupted which is making matters worse for him, and this parade today is taking place against that backdrop too.
MARTIN: That is NPR's Philip Reeves in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Philip, thanks so much.
REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.