Reclaim Pride Pitches Second March, New Route

2020 March Route (tent)
The proposed route for the 2020 Reclaim Pride Coalition’s Queer Liberation March, scheduled for June 28.
Reclaim Pride Coalition

The group that organized the 2019 Queer Liberation March and a rally in Central Park is seeking permits for a another march this year with a rally in Washington Square Park and a week-long series of events that it hopes to produce on two piers in the West Village in Hudson River Park.

“We think it’s important we do this again, that we continue to provide this space for people to come together and have a true community march to be able to express these values and work on these issues,” said Ann Northrop, a member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, during the group’s January 29 town hall meeting.

Last year, the Coalition marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which are seen as marking the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, with a march that mirrored the route taken by the 1970 march, the first to commemorate the riots. The march began in the West Village and went up Sixth Avenue to Central Park. Unlike the 1970 rally, which was held in the Sheep Meadow, the 2019 rally was held on the Great Lawn. Organizers estimated that 45,000 people participated last year.

The 2019 Queer Liberation March as it marched uptown toward Central Park.Donna Aceto

This year’s march, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first march, would begin on 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Marchers would head west to Eighth Avenue then south to Christopher Street then east to Washington Square Park. They hope to step off at 11:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in June.

The route avoids using any part of the route that Heritage of Pride (HOP), the group that produces New York City’s far larger Pride Parade and related events. The HOP march always begins at noon on the last Sunday in June. In recent years, the HOP march has used Christopher Street only between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The Coalition march would turn south when it reaches Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue from the west to skip the block of Christopher used by HOP as it proceeds east to the park.

“We would certainly be close to HOP but our intention is to stay south of them, not coincide,” Northrop wrote in an email. “That’s our proposal. We’ll see what the city says, but we’re confident we’ll work out something safe and acceptable to everyone.”

The Coalition is negotiating with the NYPD, which issues parade permits, and other city agencies that would have to sign off.

“They’re actually saying, ‘This looks like it will not be a problem,’” Northrop said at the town hall.

In the week prior to the march, Coalition members want to “Queer the Pier.” Their intention is to use two piers in Hudson River Park in the West Village to stage events and art installations and make resources available to community members who may need help or support. All events will be free and open to the public.

“This year we’re going to take back the piers,” one member said during the January 29 town hall.

Coalition members are currently meeting with representatives from the Hudson River Park Trust, which administers the park, and negotiating access to the two piers.

“We have three weeks to make a plan,” another member said. “The next three weeks are an open community design process.”

While most of the contingents in the HOP march are community groups and non-profits, the sponsors and large corporate contingents can afford to pay for a larger presence with floats and large groups of marchers. Some can buy a position toward the front of the parade.

The complaints from some community members about the corporate contingents in the HOP march are longstanding. In 2017, activists demanded a resistance contingent in the parade in response to Donald Trump winning the White House. While they were successful, the negotiations with HOP were seen as unnecessarily difficult and drawn out. Some activists were already demanding a separate march that year.

In 2018, activists again sought space for a resistance contingent and again felt that HOP was unresponsive. In anticipation of the far larger crowd that HOP knew would appear in 2019, HOP in 2018 tested limits on the headcount allowed in contingents and required marchers to wear wristbands. Both of those actions angered activists.

The 2019 Queer Liberation March represented activists’ desire to express an entirely different message from the one expressed by the HOP event. It was explicitly political, more clamorous, and much shorter.