With approximately 150,000 participants and 3 million spectators, this year’s New York City Pride March was the biggest in U.S. history. But that wasn’t the only reason Pride Sunday in New York was different.
For the first time, the Queer Liberation March, an alternative event, took place hours before the NYC Pride March was set to begin. The inaugural event didn't have any floats, especially ones sponsored by corporations, and uniformed cops weren't welcome. The message the organizers wanted to send was clear: The NYC Pride March has lost its way — and its pride.
“The issue with corporations is that they only care about us in the month of June,” said Kendall Clark, who’s a member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, which planned the Queer Liberation March. “Reclaim Pride is taking back our history; it's taking queerness back from capitalism and corporations.”
But Heritage of Pride, the non-profit responsible for planning the NYC Pride March, welcomes the criticism. Organizers pointed out that for years, LGBTQ activists struggled to get any kind of funding for the event.
“There was a time — especially when the AIDS epidemic hit — when organizations would beg,” Cathy Renna, the spokesperson for Heritage of Pride, said. “Companies that would support us in any way were incredibly welcome.”
“Fifty years is nothing," she added. "It's a blink of an eye.”
Despite all the attention that the Reclaim Pride Coalition has received in recent months, it's far from the first group to splinter off from Heritage of Pride and call out the corporate advertisers and police presence in the march. New York City’s Dyke March has been doing that for 27 years.
“We started this to create lesbian visibility because it was not there in the Sunday march,” said Maxine Wolfe, one of the founders of the Dyke March. “It is not a parade, the way the Sunday march is; we always point out that we have not yet reached Nirvana, and there's a lot we have left to do in terms of our liberation.”
VICE News spent time at all three marches and spoke to organizers and participants about the importance of keeping the spirit of the Pride March protest alive.
This segment originally aired July 2, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.