Twenty blocks north of the World Pride parade kick-off yesterday, thousands in Bryant Park were singing. Sing Out, Louise! passed out pink-and-black “hymnals”—protest lyrics, set to recognizable Americana (“Somewhere over the rainbow, love trumps hate/Black lives matter to all, and Muslims can immigrate”). When those in attendance came to outnumber the print-outs, latecomers snapped photos of their neighbors’ copies, and followed along on their phones.
This sing-along took place during the first Queer Liberation March, an event organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition. Their stated aim was to gather in the tradition of resistance. There were no floats, no police barricades, and no corporate sponsorship, in direct and pointed contrast to what was going on downtown. There were only signs, and bodies in the street en masse—45,000, according to march organizers.
Participants cited frustration with the corporatization of mainstream Pride—“rainbow capitalism,” as it is often called—and the deep entwinement of NYC Pride with the NYPD. “I hope this sends some kind of message to the people who organize Pride,” said Don Unger, who travelled all the way from Mississippi to participate. “People aren’t satisfied with police marching in the parade. And the organizers are worrying more about garnering sponsors than about the message.”
That message was broad and inclusive. The constellation of issues represented in the hymnals, as well as on the sea of vibrant hand-made signs, was extensive: queer inclusivity, Black Lives Matter, reproductive and environmental justice, gun control, immigration policy. “50 years after Stonewall, I wanted to think about queer liberation as part of a larger social justice movement,” said Chris Bunting, who had no stated plans to attend to the larger Pride parade later in the day. “The queer community is in alliance with other groups that are oppressed within the U.S.”
Something Bunting hinted at—and that participants echoed all morning—was a desire for Pride to be reconnected with activism, with protest and struggle. “There is room for us to celebrate who we are, and also fight for what we need,” said Mariam Habib. “The fight isn’t over. We need to keep putting our energies and all our resources—emotional, material, and social—into it.”
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