By Albert Amateau
It rained on the FIERCE! parade last Saturday, but that didn’t stop about 100 queer and transgender youth and their allies from marching and chanting with banners flying from Christopher Park to Weehawken St. just off the Village waterfront.
The group (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment) called for an end to the l a.m. closing of Hudson River Park and Pier 45, which they call a “curfew,” and an end to Operation West Side, the special post-midnight patrol of the West Village that the Sixth Precinct instituted this summer. The new initiative came in response to a fatal stabbing on W. 10th St. in July that resulted after an argument between a man and group of transgender youth and also in response to residents’ complaints about rowdy youth and prostitution.
Beginning with a 4 p.m. rally in Christopher Park just opposite the Stonewall Inn, where the lesbian and gay rebellion began 45 years ago, the event ended about three hours later after a closing rally on cobblestoned Weehawken St., a favorite route of FIERCE! A detail of police on foot and two patrol cars, one ahead of the march and another bringing up the rear, kept the parade moving and there were no arrests.
“Where are we supposed to go when you close the pier?” demanded Justin Anton Rosado, one of the speakers at the opening rally in Christopher Park. “If you are too young to go to the clubs and bars or you have no money, where else are you supposed to go? Many of us cannot return home to our families and neighborhoods because of mental, verbal and physical harassment because we are queer,” he said.
Chris Martin, a spokesperson for the Hudson River Park Trust, which is building and administers the 5-mile-long riverfront park, including Pier 45 — known as Christopher St. Pier — said later that the Trust follows the city practice of closing all parks at 1 a.m.
In response to charges by FIERCE! activists that the Trust would have required the group to pay $25,000 to hold its final rally and an evening event on Pier 45, Martin said that was the regular rate for a permit to use Pier 45 for an event. Use of the pier for a political rally is free, he said, but a permit is required. FIERCE! had advised the Trust one week earlier that it wanted to rally on Pier 45. But Martin said the group had not faxed the complete application to the agency until the Friday before the rally — not giving the Trust time to decide.
“They’re welcome to apply for a political rally like any other group but they shouldn’t do it at the last minute,” Martin said.
FIERCE! held its post-rally event at the Brecht Forum on W. 27th St.
Members and friends of the group also demanded a drop-in center for homeless and queer youth who have gravitated to the Village waterfront for decades. Neutral Zone, a former drop-in center on Christopher St., closed about 10 years ago, demonstrators noted. Since then, there has been no place for transgender and gay street youths to get services such as safe-sex information, H.I.V. counseling and food. Neutral Zone closed in the midst of neighborhood complaints about violence and prostitution that residents and merchants attributed to the center.
Bob Kohler, a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall riots, also was on the Sat., Oct. 10, march expressing solidarity with the young demonstrators. So was Mel Stevens of Act Up. Observers from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a group of lawyers dedicated to legal protection for the transgender community, were also at the rally.
Earlier this month, several youths were arrested after street fights at Seventh Ave. and W. Fourth St., incidents that Ruth Kuzub, owner of Silversmiths, a W. Fourth St. jewelry shop, attributes to large crowds of youth going to the subway after being turned out of Pier 45 all at the same time.
“If the pier were left open later, the kids would drift away gradually instead of descending on Fourth St. all at once in a mob,” she said in a phone interview this week.