At least 45,000 people joined the Queer Liberation March here on June 30 in an exuberant and powerful celebration honoring the legacy of queer liberation struggles, past and present.
Organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition, the march and following rally renounced the commercialization of the annual Pride event, which has been dominated by corporations. There were no corporations, floats or police contingent in the march. Rather it expressed solidarity with immigrants, the Black Lives Matter movement and all oppressed people.
Held on the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Rebellion, the march followed the route of the first Pride march and captured its spirit. It began at Sheridan Square Park in the West Village and went up Sixth Avenue to Bryant Park, where a second wave of participants joined, and then continued to Central Park’s Great Lawn.
There were sit-ins along the route, one of which protested the confinement of people with HIV in immigrant detention centers. A trans Latinx contingent and groups supporting abortion rights and Palestine marched, as well as contingents opposing U.S. wars and militarization.
Workers World Party, People’s Power Assemblies NYC and Shut It Down were part of the Abolition contingent, which called for the abolition of cops, prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The WWP banner proclaiming “Queer As In — Fuck the Police” got an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
There were two moments of silence. The first was to remember and honor those lost to homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism, to HIV/AIDS and violence in all its forms. The second was in tribute to the trans women of color murdered throughout the country. The march also honored all those killed by police or while incarcerated, as well as those who have died by gun violence or by lack of access to housing and medical care.
The rally also ignited the spirit of fightback of the original marches. Speakers included members of the Gay Liberation Front and Larry Kramer, one of the founders of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). A statement was read from Chelsea Manning, a trans woman and Iraq war whistleblower currently incarcerated for refusing to testify before a grand jury.
“We are here for trans women of color, who, despite leading the fight at Stonewall 50 years ago, continue to be attacked and killed on our streets, in jails and prisons, and in our own communities,” Manning wrote. “We are here for Layleen Polanco, who just a few weeks ago was found dead in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. We are here for Johana Medina León, a 25-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador, who died in ICE custody on the first day of Pride Month. We are here for Ashanti Carmon, Zoe Spears, Muhlaysia Booker and the eight other trans women who have been murdered this year alone.”
As the thousands spread out on the Great Lawn in Central Park, they continued to respond to the speakers with cheers and applause all afternoon.
The majority of the speakers were queer and trans people of color who reflect today’s wide diversity of struggles and issues. Powerful talks by Black and Latina trans women lifted up crucial issues they face. LaLa Zannell and Cecilia Gentili led the crowd in the chant “Sex work is work!” They urged the movement for queer and trans liberation to defend all workers against exploitation and police repression.
Loan Tran, a queer trans organizer from Durham, N.C., expressed solidarity with the Central Park Five, who in 1989 were wrongly convicted and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit, and with migrants being forced out of their homes.
“Don’t we think it’s time to shut down those concentration camps at the border?” Tran asked. “The crisis at the border is a crisis of capitalism, it’s a crisis of imperialism, it’s a crisis of colonialism. The thousands who are being forced to come to the fake U.S.-Mexico border are coming as a direct result of the pillage and plunder and exploitation of their resources and communities. The thousands coming to the border are owed reparations for the wealth that has been stolen from them for decades and for centuries.”
Tran called on the crowd to organize to make their ancestors proud. “Open the borders, free Palestine, no war in Iran, down with imperialism, down with white supremacy,” they declared.