Story by Associated Press; curated by Zach Noble

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Several thousand people have turned out for Cyprus’ first gay pride parade, an event which organizers say shows that Cypriots are shedding their conservative views.

Cypriot policemen on their motorbikes escort people during the gay pride parade on May 31, 2014 in Cyprus’ capital Nicosia. Cyprus first-ever Gay Pride parade took place in Nicosia, 16 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in the country. Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

One of the organizers, Costas Gavrielides, said he had initially hoped for just a few hundred people to attend the event in the heart of the capital Nicosia on Saturday.

Demonstrators take cover as a smoke grenade is thrown at a Gay Pride parade by an anti-gay demonstrator in Nicosia on May 31, 2014. Cyprus first-ever Gay Pride parade took place in Nicosia, 16 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in the country. Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Gavrielides urged lawmakers to pass legislation to protect gay rights, including a civil partnership law.

Plainclothes police officers restrain a Cypriot man after he attacked demonstrators taking part in the first ever Gay Pride parade in Nicosia on May 31, 2014. Cyprus first-ever Gay Pride parade took place in Nicosia, 16 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in the country. Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

A small group of Orthodox Christian protesters in the east Mediterranean island nation staged a demonstration nearby to denounce the event they called “shameful.” Tempers flared as police prevented them from nearing the parade.

A protester is arrested by policemen during an anti-gay pride demonstration on May 31, 2014 in the old part of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia. Cyprus first-ever Gay Pride parade took place in Nicosia, 16 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in the country. Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images