The gay activist group OutRage], which organised the demonstration, had hoped to force mass arrests by defying parliamentary orders which require the police to keep the streets around the House of Commons free of disorder and obstruction.
In the event, more than 250 officers using vans blocked off the 800-strong march after it had advanced 300 yards along the mile-long route to Westminster. Protesters then lay down in the road, partially blocking traffic at the tail of the evening rush. Police stepped in when about 10 demonstrators broke away and blocked the whole street.
Addressing the crowd at the feet of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, Peter Tatchell described the protest as the first move in a 'peaceful and dignified' civil disobedience campaign, following MPs' failure last month to reduce the age of consent for homosexual men to 16. 'When the law discriminates, it deserves to be broken,' he said.