The Queer Liberation March reflects the ‘Spirit of Stonewall,’ organizers say

The Queer Liberation March will be held on the same day as the NYC Pride March by activists who are unhappy with the way the main parade is run.
The Queer Liberation March will be held on the same day as the NYC Pride March by activists who are unhappy with the way the main parade is run. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A contingent of LGBTQ organizations fed up with how the NYC Pride March is run is putting on  its own march this June.

The Queer Liberation March, which starts 2½ hours earlier than the main march on June 30, is being called a "rebellion" by its organizer, the Reclaim Pride Coalition.

Members of the coalition spoke at a press event in Sheridan Square on Tuesday to announce the day’s itinerary, saying that there will be no floats, no corporate marchers and no official police contingent unlike the NYC Pride March.

And that is deliberate. This event is a protest march that grew out of frustration with seeing more and more commercial entities take part in the NYC Pride March and the strong presence of NYPD officers.

"We are reclaiming Pride by building this march and building a movement that rallies in the spirit of solidarity and coalition to fight back against corporate greed and state oppression," said Colin Ashley of the Reclaim Pride Coalition and Peoples Power Assembly. 

While all eyes are on the city for WorldPride, Terry Roethlein of the Center for Economic and Social Rights and member of Reclaim Pride, said he hopes the march will show that "queers can make a difference politically."

"We tend to be dismissed a lot of the time," he said. "I hope the march will create a splash."

Ellen Shumsky, an original member of the Gay Liberation Front, said that the new march will let her relive the pride, the fun and the sense of community that she experienced in the first Gay Liberation Front march in 1970.

"When I see the parade now — the Mardi Gras … and there’s all these commercial floats and advertisements, it’s a little bit upsetting and sickening," she said. "We’ve lost that feeling of the first march." 

Members of the Reclaim Pride Coalition met on Tuesday to announce their plans for the Queer Liberation March on June 30.
Members of the Reclaim Pride Coalition met on Tuesday to announce their plans for the Queer Liberation March on June 30. Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

The route will even mimic the route of the march in 1970, which covered 51 blocks from Christopher Street to Central Park. 

If you’re confused about how this will work, you’re not alone. Let us break it down for you:

Time: The march begins at 9:30 a.m.

Route: Marchers will meet at Sheridan Square and march up Seventh Avenue, cross West 10th Street and file up Sixth Avenue to Central Park. The march will continue into the park to the Great Lawn at 81st Street. People can join in from wherever they are along the route, including at Bryant Park, where the march will briefly pause at 11 a.m.

What about traffic? Sixth Avenue will not be officially closed to traffic, but Norman Siegel, the Reclaim Pride Coalition attorney, said that it "depends on how many people show up" and that police have stopped traffic in past marches. "We hope that this march will be massive," he said.

He said the coalition is in "final negotiations" with the Parks Department for permission to gather in Central Park. The NYPD confirmed Tuesday that "an agreement has been reached to accommodate Reclaim Pride’s event," as well.

According to Cathy Renna, a spokeswoman for the main march, the Coalition is using a portion of the permitted route obtained by NYC Pride.

"Heritage of Pride was more than happy to accommodate the alternative march with a portion of our permitted route," she told amNewYork in a statement. "It is unfortunate their lawyer failed to point that out at their recent press event."

What is the Reclaim Pride Coalition? It’s a group of more than 100 organizations from across the world who feel they must reclaim NYC Pride so that it better represents LGBTQ communities.

Will there really be no police? No.

The Reclaim Pride Coalition believes that the LGBTQ and transgender communities do not feel safe around police, and says that the NYPD has never apologized for the part it played in the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. 

Attorney Siegel said that “there is tension historically and currently between how police and police at NYPD have treated these folks, they don’t treat them with the respect their constitutional rights allow them, a question we will see [answered] on June 30.”

But according to the NYPD, there will be more of a police presence around subway stations and at historic LGBTQ landmarks and they will be on hand to prevent incidents, according to Sgt. Jessica McRorie, a spokeswoman.

"Personnel and resources are routinely re-allocated during these events to ensure there is the appropriate number of officers available to handle the scheduled events, ‘pop up’ or events generic in nature and unforeseen emergencies," she said in a statement. "The NYPD also has a robust counterterrorism apparatus and our counterterrorism officers are highly trained and heavily equipped. These operators serve as a deterrent and a response component."

Why are there no corporate floats? The Reclaim Pride Coalition believes that they do not represent the "spirit of Stonewall" and actually take away from the community’s fight for equal rights by dominating the NYC Pride March.

Who is participating? Anyone can join because there are no tickets, bracelets, police or barricades.

Groups participating and endorsing the march include: ACT UP NY, Center for LGBTQ Studies – CLAGS, Exit9 Gift Emporium, Gays Against Guns NYC, Housing Works, Immigration Equality, New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), NYC Democratic Socialists of America, PRIDE Democrats of New York City, Park Avenue Christian Church, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church Movement and many others, including international organizations.

What does Heritage of Pride (the main march organizers) have to say about this?

"It was long ago agreed upon to organize as we saw fit for our diverse communities," Renna said. "Our goal is to plan diverse political, cultural and community events throughout June that will provide a safe, accessible and fulfilling Pride for the millions coming to New York City, including the 150,000 who will participate in the largest Pride march in history with Heritage of Pride. We wish them the best for a safe event."

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