If you walk down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on the last Sunday of June, you’d be confronted by a barrage of rainbow floats. Likely, you’d think to yourself, “Wow, this truly is a celebration of the LGBTQ community.” But upon further scrutiny, you may notice that several of these floats read TD Bank, T-Mobile and Hyatt. If, on a whim, you wanted to join the festivities, hopping on a float or marching in the parade, one of the many police officers would escort you off the street.
That’s not how Pride used to be. The Reclaim Pride Coalition would like to remind you that the first Pride was a riot — one that broke out in the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Manhattan’s West Village, and carried into the streets. Fed up with the New York City’s Police Department’s constant raids on gay bars, New York City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming community decided to take action.
The RPC wants to return Pride to its roots, especially since 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
This year, an estimated four million visitors will flock to New York for the annual NYC Heritage of Pride March on June 30th — even more than years past, since next month, New York is also hosting World Pride 2019. But holding a press conference outside of the Stonewall Inn, the RPC organizers announced that, they, too, would be holding a gathering: the inaugural Queer Liberation March. Unlike modern-day Pride, theirs will be a protest, inspired by old activist groups like ACT UP and the Gay Liberation Front — groups who literally fought for their freedom. All, the RPC leaders made clear, are welcome to join.
They do not plan to interfere with the city-sanctioned event — theirs will start at 9:30 a.m., hours before the more mainstream parade, and the two are not set to overlap. The Queer Liberation March, which has rejected police and corporate sponsors, will begin in Sheridan Square, next to the Stonewall Inn. Marchers will then make their way north through Midtown, passing Bryant Park, eventually concluding the march in the middle of Central Park.
While the RPC does not have an official permit to march, Norman Siegel, RPC’s attorney and former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, explained that they have an agreement with the NYPD and a handshake, which is sufficient under First Amendment rights. While this may sound like a ripe opportunity for the NYPD to renege on their promise, Siegel clarified that a handshake is often the only form of agreement for marchers and protesters in te city.
The political component of the march is how Collin Ashley, a member of both the Reclaim Pride Coalition and People’s Power Assembly, sees the protest as being “queerer” and more inclusive. The Queer Liberation March will advocate for the rights of all members of the LGBTQ community, particularly those who are most marginalized. In fact, Ashley said that the RPC is “Working on a specific direction action plan [not pertaining to the march] that will impact queer and trans youth of color,” although he didn’t provide details.
Fifty years after Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson fought in the street for queer freedom, the fight is far from over. The NYPD is yet to apologize for Stonewall and continues harassing members of the LGBTQ community, particularly people of color. Corporate sponsors — and there are set to be 150 at World Pride in New York City this year — continue to capitalize off of queer communities, only giving back during the month of June when they slap a rainbow on the side of their products and give a small portion of the proceeds to an LGBTQ organization.
“Pharmaceutical companies continue to profit disproportionatly off of LGBTQ communties, especially on life saving HIV medication,” says Ann Fureigh, a member of New York’s Act Up and RPC. “Then they pander to us by throwing parties. This [Queer Liberation March] isn’t for them. It’s for us.”
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