Yes, New York is back — in a big way.
On a day when temperatures touched 90 degrees in New York City, the third annual Queer Liberation March on June 27 drew many thousands of energetic marchers who made their way from Bryant Park to Washington Square Park to commemorate Pride Sunday in New York City.
It appeared to be the most well-attended Queer Liberation March yet — and the crowd that amassed at Bryant Park ahead of the march was so large that it spilled into the nearby streets. The messages emblazoned on signs, banners, and T-shirts shed light on the range of LGBTQ issues unfolding across the world and here in the United States, from immigrants’ rights to the legislative assaults on trans youth in multiple states. Marchers also railed against economic injustice in accordance with the Reclaim Pride Coalition’s rejection of the corporate ties that have permeated the Heritage of Pride (HOP) March.
The Queer Liberation March took place hours after a scaled-down version of HOP’s Pride March and TV broadcast was held with a limited slate due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike HOP’s highly regulated festivities, some folks stepped in and out of the Queer Liberation March — which is an unpermitted event that bans police and corporations in an effort to restore Pride to its original roots. Others even joined from their rooftops, fire escapes, and balconies, where they sipped from red solo cups and waved Rainbow Flags from up above, drawing roaring cheers from marchers. Chants of “no justice, no peace” and “f*** the bourgeoisie” reverberated down Seventh Avenue.
Many of the same people who previously participated in the Queer Liberation March had said they would be back for more this year. Given the size of the march, however, it was clear that new people were welcomed into the fold — and they were delighted to join in.
“I’m really happy to be here because it’s my first Pride out as a non-binary lesbian,” said one of the marchers, B. Kelly, who was standing with two others while they waited for the march to begin. “”I’m here with my girlfriend.”
Ivan Noboa was visiting from the Dominican Republic and opted to join the Queer Liberation March to stand in solidarity with the community.
“I like the environment, the people — I support them,” Noboa explained. “I’m straight but I don’t judge people. I’m a supporter.”
From Bryant Park, the march started off along 41st Street before heading south on Seventh Avenue and shifting east to conclude at Washington Square Park. A rally was originally scheduled to take place at the end of the march, but those plans were scrapped just days before the rally.
Along the way, parties were popping up on the side of the street and music blasted from different directions. Some folks stepped off the march at Stonewall to join the massive crowd packed into Christopher Street. Cami Reaume, who hails from the midwest, took in the energy while standing near Stonewall.
“We’ve all just been waiting like a year to celebrate Pride,” Reaume said. “This is my first actual Pride so I’m especially excited. I came down in the [Queer Liberation March]. It’s awesome.”
Following the march, folks poured into Washington Square Park for the biggest party of the day — and that lasted well into the night. Countless people hopped through the fountain to cool off, Rainbow Flags waved at every corner of the park, and large crowds congregated around speakers blaring music from Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion.
However, after cops seemed to steer clear of marchers throughout the day, a significant police presence started to build up around the park — especially near the Washington Square Arch — as the sun continued to set on the final Sunday of Pride Month. Multiple Twitter users reported that cops eventually moved in and pepper-sprayed some individuals, and police said there were four arrests after a person threw a water bottle and bit a lieutenant — though that allegation was not independently confirmed by Gay City News.
Less than an hour after the alleged incident unfolded, Gay City News spotted cops in riot gear mobilized near the park and dozens of police officers on bicycles were seen about one block away from the park. By 8 p.m., dozens of police cars were lined up on the road outside of the park and a helicopter hovered above, circling the area over and over.
That brief diversion prompted folks to denounce the NYPD’s actions, but it was short-lived and barely impacted the evening at the park. The music continued, the park stayed busy, and most people there did not seem to know anything happened.
Past the 10 p.m. hour, the streets were still filled with dancing revelers. Near West Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue, some people were bouncing on a bus equipped with a sound system and others surrounded the vehicle and danced the night away.