The group that is producing the Queer Liberation March on the last Sunday in June appears poised to secure permits for the march and for a rally in Central Park.
“Through several months now of these negotiations, we have arrived at a plan,” said Ann Northrop, a member of the Reclaim Price Coalition (RPC), during a March 27 meeting held at the Church of the Village on West 13th Street.
Comprised of more than 90 endorser groups, the Coalition has members who had grown increasingly unhappy with the presentation of New York City’s annual Pride March, which occurs on the last Sunday in June and commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots. Those riots mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
With this year’s march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the riots, the Coalition members elected to produce their own march on that Sunday to be followed by a rally in Central Park. This mirrors the 1970 march, the very first march, which traveled up Sixth Avenue from the West Village, where the riots occurred on the last weekend in June, and ended in Central Park where thousands of participants held a “gay-in” on the Sheep Meadow.
During the negotiations over this year’s RPC march, the NYPD, which issues parade permits, offered a starting point at Seventh Avenue at Sheridan Square with marchers heading north then turning east on 23rd Street then traveling north again on Sixth Avenue to Central Park with a rally on the Great Lawn. The offer has the march beginning at 9:00 a.m., a time that drew objections from some of the roughly 75 people in the meeting. The group ultimately approved the offer with a request that negotiators agree to the route, but seek a later start time.
If RPC gets its permit, the NYPD will be policing two events on that Sunday.
Heritage of Pride (HOP), which also uses NYC Pride, is organizing a march that may have up to 150,000 marchers. That event, which also commemorates the 1969 riots, will step off at noon and travel south on Fifth Avenue from 29th Street then head west on Eighth and Christopher Streets then north on Seventh Avenue to disperse at 23rd Street. While the RPC march will likely be smaller than the HOP event, the NYPD clearly wants the RPC members out of the way before the NYC Pride parade begins.
The RPC organizers are among the community members who have objected to the presence of large corporate floats and contingents in the annual parade. Sponsors in the HOP march are able to buy positions toward the front in that parade. While the sponsors are a dominant presence, community groups and non-profits continue to make up most of the contingents in that march.
Northrop, who presented with longtime LGBTQ and civil rights activist Bill Dobbs, noted that the NYPD had initially told them in January, “We don’t see a way forward for this.” The Coalition applied for its parade permit in October of 2018.
“It was extremely discouraging because we went in there with open hearts and open minds,” Northrop said.
The Coalition members have also complained about the policing of the HOP event, which they see as overbearing, and the use of barricades to line the march route, which they see as keeping people from entering or exiting the march conveniently. The crowd responded with sustained applause when Northrop told them, “The police department has said to us, ‘We don’t have the resources to barricade Sixth Avenue and we don’t have the resources for a large police presence.’”
The Central Park rally also appears to be on track to get a permit.
“The parks department and the Central Park Conservancy have been incredibly helpful in getting this done,” said Hucklefaery, a performance activist and member of the RPC’s rally committee, early in the meeting. Hucklefaery later told Gay City News that the interactions with the city parks department and the conservancy, a private entity that manages the park under a contract with the city, had been “incredibly positive.”
Gay City News did not seek comment from HOP, but the group sent a statement to the newspaper on March 28 that said, “In the spirit of collaboration, Heritage of Pride has agreed to accommodate a portion of our permitted route for the NYC Pride March with the Queer Liberation March. We understand they will be stepping off at 9am near Stonewall on June 30th. We wish success to the organizers of this event, and also the hundreds more being planned throughout NYC this June.”
It is the police department that issues parade permits and that controls the streets during such events.