A group of LGBTQ organizers is planning an alternative "Queer Liberation March" on the same day as the annual NYC Pride March, saying that the current event has become heavily policed and overrun with corporate sponsors.
The Reclaim Pride Coalition, which has been endorsed by over 100 organizations, says people are welcome to attend both, but their protest will be focused on political and social issues facing the LGBTQ community. Organizers say the aim is to honor the spirit of Stonewall on the 50th anniversary of the historic riots at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement.
“It was a rebellion, an uprising,” said Colin Ashley, one of the members. “[We are] offended by the over-policing of the annual pride parade that excludes many of the most marginalized in our communities. We are offended by the selling off of the pride parade [...] especially on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.”
Heritage of Pride, a nonprofit, has been organizing the NYC Pride March since 1984. The first Gay Pride March was held in 1970.
“They’re working really hard, God knows,” said Reclaim Pride Coalition member Ann Northrop. “We just disagree with what they’re doing.”
The split between march organizers grew out of last year’s parade, when critics raised concerns about a number of issues, including the presence of corporate sponsors. Organizers of the NYC Pride March defended the decision, saying that without corporate funding, the scale of the annual gathering would not be possible. More than 3 million people are expected to attend this year's parade.
“The reality is that if sponsors didn’t cover a lot of these events, where would that money come from?" asked Cathy Renna, a spokeswoman for the Heritage of Pride. "We certainly don’t want to take money away from the organizations that serve our community."
Out of 160 floats in this year’s parade, Renna said about half are sponsored by corporations and other organizations. The other half are funded by nonprofits.
Renna said that many of the events associated with this year’s NYC Pride March are “very political,” including a human rights conference and a rally in front of Stonewall.
Organizers of the Queer Liberation March maintain their event will also be more accessible to individuals and members of the public who want to join from the sidewalks. Normally, police barricades prevent people from spontaneously participating in the parade.
Several organizers of the alternative march say that the heavy police presence and corporate branding makes the annual march feel restricted and apolitical.
“[The parade] doesn’t even know how to spell the word ‘political,’” said Amanda Lugg, a member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, who called the amount of corporate branding “obscene.”
“Our ancestors are bloody rolling in their graves,” she said.
Other people who plan to participate in the Queer Liberation March said they have long wanted an alternative to the traditional parade.
“I was stuck in a throng of people who have scoffed at my pronouns, honestly,” said Turner Law, who identifies as gender non-binary, about the 2017 parade. “There was a moment when I realized that this party was not representative of my community of people.”
While the alternative march does not technically have a permit from the NYPD, the Reclaim Pride Coalition says it has an “agreement” with the police to facilitate their march from 7th Avenue and Christopher Street to Central Park’s Great Lawn, where they will then hold a rally.
The coalition has yet to obtain a permit from the New York City Parks Department.
Renna said the NYC Pride March has agreed to let the coalition use part of the route that is permitted for the annual parade, in front of the Stonewall Inn.
The Reclaim Pride Coalition plans to start marching at 9:30 a.m. and proceed uptown. The NYC Pride March will start at noon from 26th Street and 5th Avenue, and move downtown past the Stonewall Inn before looping back around to the finish at 23rd Street and 7th Avenue.