In Solidarity With Black America, Reclaim Pride Plans June 28 March

Reclaim Pride's Queer Liberation March held on Pride Sunday last June 30.
Donna Aceto

The Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC) — the queer activist group that last June 30 staged a Queer Liberation March as an alternative to what it said was an overly corporatized Heritage of Pride/ WorldPride March — has announced it will move forward with a march on the last Sunday of June again this year.

In the wake of the outrage that boiled over with the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the group, in a June 4 press release stated, “We have determined that the only way to move forward is to once again have a physical March through the streets of Manhattan on Pride Sunday, June 28. Our March will center the movement for Black Lives and focus on the violence committed against Black bodies by law enforcement and the mass incarceration state.”

The march — which will take place on the 50th anniversary of the Christopher Street Liberation Day March commemorating the Stonewall riots one year earlier — will be called the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality.

The group stated, “This moment, the principles of the 1970 march, and the RPC founding mission demand” that the queer community take to the streets again.

In its release, RPC noted that the “most marginalized” groups within the Black community — including transgender people, immigrants, and those living with disabilities — face the greatest hardships in American society and also argued that transgender women of color and Black youth played integral roles in the June 1969 events at the Stonewall. The post-Stonewall Gay Liberation Front, the release added, fostered dialogue with Black activist Huey Newton and the Black Panthers.

The release singled out the NYPD as a major contributor to racial and other social injustice in the city, and recounted the experience of RPC member Jason Rosenberg, who sustained injuries to his head and his arm when police attacked him with batons and punches on Fifth Avenue at 14th Street on June 2, just minutes after the 8 p.m. curfew took effect.

Noting that Rosenberg was denied medical attention for five hours while in custody, RPC added, “Jason was not alone in sustaining injuries or in being denied care that night. And we are certain that the same is true for many of the hundreds of Black protestors arrested over the course of the last week.”

The RPC release emphasized that the location and time of the June 28 event have not been set yet, and it also made clear the group “will continue to seek guidance from the Black Queer Community and our Elders to program meaningful actions… On June 28th we will all explore what the future of Racial Justice looks like.”

On June 1, out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman also made the case that Pride this year should be focused on police and other violence against the Black community and called on Heritage of Pride to cancel its plans for a virtual Pride celebration to be aired on WABC 7.

“Today, as Pride Month begins and protests for racial justice sweep the nation, I’m calling on Heritage of Pride to cancel conventional Pride celebrations and return to the radical roots of the modern LGBTQ movement: a protest against bigotry, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and police brutality,” the senator said.

In response to RPC’s plans, Hoylman, in a written statement, said,  “I believe that New York City’s LGBTQ community should use Pride month to focus on the ongoing fight for racial justice and against police brutality, including that inflicted on Black transgender women — a struggle that dates back to the Stonewall uprising. Therefore, I’m strongly supportive of Reclaim Pride’s plan to use its non-commercial march as a vehicle to center Black voices and Black experiences, which have too often been marginalized in our community. I’d urge Reclaim Pride to continue seeking input from the Black LGBTQ community in formulating these plans.”

Jay W. Walker, an RPC spokesperson, clarified two issues that were absent from the release. The announcement this week is only news now because the group had earlier suspended planning on a Pride Sunday march because of the coronavirus pandemic. In early April, RPC announced it was temporarily redirecting its efforts to providing relief and assistance to queer New Yorkers particularly affected by the pandemic.

“Once the crisis started hitting the community and the reality of what we were facing settled in, we were able to pivot and say, ‘Actually, we don’t know if there is going to be a public gathering of Pride this year,’” Quito Ziegler, a member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, told the newspaper at the time.

Walker emphasized that participants would be “strongly” encouraged to wear masks and that event marshals would “strongly” encourage “the best social distancing.” RPC will also be distributing masks and hand sanitizer during the event.

The release did not mention whether RPC would seek an NYPD permit for the event, as it had last year, but Walker clarified that “At present, we have no plans to seek a permit.”

Police authorization for an event focused on decrying police violence, of course, might be a confusing message for RPC to put out, and in any event it is unlikely that Mayor Bill de Blasio, who weeks ago said no permits would be issued for the many large events staged in the city in June, would agree to waiving that edict.

RPC’s announcement comes just a day after the Christopher Street West Association reversed its earlier decision not to hold a Pride March in Los Angeles, stating it would move forward on July 14 with a protest march in solidarity with the Black community. Like RPC, Christopher Street West emphasized that its mission demanded that it take this action.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Estevan Montemayor, the group’s president, stated, “Our organization’s mission is to create safe and inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. If we did not do this, we would not be in compliance with our own mission… In 1970, we gathered on Hollywood Boulevard to protest police brutality and oppression to our community. We will do that again this year, where it began, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.”

[Editor’s note: When originally posted, Senator Brad Hoylman had not yet responded to a request for comment. He has since issued the statement reflected above.]

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