Dozens gathered at the Stonewall National Monument on Tuesday to raise the rainbow flag — the first permanent installation of the LGBTQ flag on city park land.
The flag was raised to the singing of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” as supporters held signs reading “Trans Love,” “We will not be silent,” and “You will not destroy us.”
“I am so proud that the rainbow flag is flying here, that’s the bottom line,” said Michael Petrelis, who first put in a request with the federal government for the banner to be raised at the location over the summer. He said the request was agreed to in July. “The visibility of the rainbow flag on this historic flagstaff across from the birthplace of the modern gay movement is making me happy. Very happy.”
The installation has not been without controversy, however.
In June 2016, former President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn a national monument. But just this past weekend, the National Park Service ceded jurisdiction over the flagpole to the city, according to officials.
Ken Kidd, an organizer of the event, said the National Park Service “decided [the flagpole] now belonged to the city, now that it had a rainbow flag on it.”
And as happy as he was to see “official recognition” flying above the Village, the timing of the switch didn’t surprise him.
“I think that it’s endemic and emblematic of the Trump administration’s efforts to treat the LGBTQ community as second-class citizens,” he said.
Joshua Laird, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, said while the federal government maintained the flags that hung before, “it was never our flagpole ... the question of who actually maintains the flag and who raises and lowers the flag is separate from who owns it.”
He said the federal parks department’s maintenance of the rest of the national monument is “not going anywhere.”
Sam Biederman, a spokesman for the city’s parks department, said the city was happy to take over. “Today, on National Coming Out Day, the city is very proud to step in to carry the banner for LGBTQI rights.”