Pride Month holds a special place in the heart of New Yorkers on any given year, but this year especially — amid ongoing confrontations over police brutality across the country — these celebrations took on outsized meaning.
At Sunday evening’s Queer Liberation March, Police clashed with protesters during on the 51st anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots in New York City, unleashing a barrage of pepper spray and shoving terrified demonstrators who stood in their path.
Posts shared on social media show the moment where cops, who attempted to make arrests, resorted to violence and instead caused a packed crowd to panic and stampede in response to the chaos. In a livestream published on Facebook, protesters can be seen with fists raised in a peaceful show of solidarity, chanting “let them go” and attempting to intervene as officers cart off two individuals on graffiti charges related to the defacement of a police vehicle.
The violent dustup threatened to cause a “second Stonewall,” said the man who published one Facebook livestream wrote, as a months-long, nationwide standoff with police over the brutality they disproportionately inflict on minority groups threatened to boil over into a full-on riot. “When we saw the eruption of protests, we were reminded of AIDS-era activism,” Jon Carter, a member of the Reclaim Pride coalition that helped found the Queer Liberation March, told The Daily Beast. “There are times when physical presence in the streets speaks volumes.”
“As we marched toward Washington Square Park at the end of the event, I saw New York Police Department (NYPD) officers push people down and beat them in the street, a painful echo of history,” Lucy Diavolo writes for Teen Vogue. “The entire experience was a harrowing reminder that queer liberation — a future where LGBTQ people are free not just from discrimination, but from all the oppressive systems that hold everyone down — must include police abolition among its goals.”
Since 2019, the Queer Liberation March has been held to commemorate the 1969 uprising that resulted after police attempted a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a popular Greenwich Village gay club in Manhattan. Gay patrons, grown weary of the constant police surveillance of community hotspots, revolted, throwing bottles at responding officers in a riot that is still considering the start of the Pride movement.
Pippa Bianco, a volunteer with NourishNYC, told Gothamist she watched fellow protesters get pepper sprayed as officers held her down.“I was totally peaceful, we all were — I was picking up food for a volunteer food station when the cops rushed into the crowd in a panic and started the violence,” she said.
Queer justice movements have long held overlapping interests with movements for Black empowerment, dating back to the Black Panthers and their collaboration with the Queer Liberation Front in the 1960s. This year’s pride celebration, which took place during the same month that marches and rallies for the Black lives taken by police have disrupted life in every corner of the city, brought with it a new opportunity for intersectional allyship. This served as yet another awakening moment for protestors who are fighting to abolish police in favor of new security systems — a movement that does not seem to be slowing even in the fact of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
“I’ve been going to a lot of Black Lives Matter protests, and I’m a gay person, and I feel we need to be in the streets and fighting for the rights of Black trans people,” one East Village resident named Todd told the Daily Beast. “This is what queer Pride should be.”
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