NEW YORK — Across the street from the Stonewall Inn — often cited as the birthplace of the gay rights movement — a coalition of LGBTQ groups announced Tuesday a counter-march to New York City’s famous LGBTQ Pride parade.
The organizers, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, hope the counter-march will bring back a spirit of rebellion to an event they say has become a money-driven spectacle. The counter-march — planned for the same day as the traditional Pride demonstration, June 30 — will be perhaps the largest counter-demonstration to NYC Pride in history if organizers’ projections come to pass.
“Rebellion is needed and appropriate at times,” said Norman Siegel, the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said at a news conference outside of Stonewall announcing the march. “Let’s make June 30, 2019, a day that will be remembered not only in this city, not only in this country, but throughout the world as continuing and expanding the liberation and pride that filled these city streets 50 years ago.”
The first Queer Liberation March, as the organizers have dubbed it, is different from your typical Pride parade in two big ways:
- No cops
- No corporate floats
Police presence at LGBTQ celebrations has always been controversial because of Pride’s radical roots, specifically its origins at the Stonewall Inn. This year’s Pride, celebrated throughout the month of June, is particularly significant as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a spontaneous, violent uprising of LGBTQ people against police in 1969, when “anti-sodomy laws” were still commonplace. Cops frequently targeted Stonewall, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, with raids and arrests, until patrons — many of them poor and homeless — fought back on June 28.
Reclaim Pride, in that tradition, believes that Pride is overpoliced and bloated by corporate influence, including floats for big banks and chain restaurants. Last year, a corporate float had a sticker price of $8,000, and New York City Pride had 61 corporate sponsors, 13 promotional partners, and 31 media sponsors. As Reclaim Pride organizers announced their anti-corporation march, two sponsorship banners (one for an airline and another for beer) were already hanging from the historic Stonewall Inn.
“Reclaim Pride wants to make sure that Stonewall 50 lives up to the spirit of what happened here 50 years ago,” Siegel added Tuesday.
For its part, Heritage of Pride, which organizes the official NYC parade, said it has tried to be accommodating to Reclaim Pride despite the organizations’ differences. Cathy Renna, spokeswoman for Heritage of Pride, said police will be attending NYC Pride as participants of the march and for security reasons.
“We understand that there are a lot of divergent opinions on many issues and that Pride is many different things for many different people in the community,” Renna said. “We do not deny access to anyone who is part of the community to march in our Pride march.”
The organizers of the countermarch also say that the Pride parade does not address the urgent and continuous fights for trans and queer rights, which the Trump administration has repeatedly targeted. For example, Trump banned trans people from serving in the military, and his administration opposed the Equality Act, a bill that offers legal protections for LGBTQ people.
“Today, my trans siblings and I still face constant assaults from police in this city. We’re still struggling with rampant homelessness. We’re still suffering under discrimination, lack of access to medical care,” said Robin Scott, a designer and volunteer with Reclaim Pride. “As much as I would love to simply celebrate in a sea of rainbows, this does not to me feel like the time to celebrate — or simply to celebrate — this is a time of unprecedented crisis.”
She added: “We’re a coalition that unites a generation of our queer elders with young people who are disillusioned with a corporate, pink-washed culture that doesn’t represent us and doesn’t listen to our needs.”
Trans people also still face discrimination from police, who have a history of misidentifying murder victims by their dead names, failing to identify violence against trans people as hate crimes, and even forcing them into prisons and jails that does not correspond to their gender identities.
Reclaim Pride organizers have been meeting weekly since last year's Pride march and negotiating with the city for about six months to get their own march off the ground. Organizers said they’re aiming for a turnout of about 50,000 people. There will be no barricades as part of the march, which begins at 9:30 a.m. and follows largely the same route that the original Gay Liberation Front march — perhaps the first gay pride march — did in 1970. The march will end with a rally at the Great Lawn in Central Park.
Cover image: Reclaim Pride organizers announce the June 30 Queer Liberation March in front of the historic Stonewall Inn on May 14, 2019. (Rex Santus/VICE News)