The organization that produces New York City’s annual pride parade, rally, and related events is under pressure to put groups that are taking a lead in pushing back against Republican Party control of the White House and Congress at the front of this year’s march.
“One way or another, these resistance groups are going to take over this parade,” Cathy Marino-Thomas, the former head of Marriage Equality who is currently active in Gays Against Guns, told the leadership of Heritage of Pride at HOP’s March 13 general meeting. “I predict that if there is no give here, this will be the first time there will be arrests.”
Members of Gays Against Guns, ACT UP, Rise + Resist, and United Thru Action packed the meeting, which was held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. The meeting is typically attended by just HOP leaders and volunteers, but was standing room only, with 50 to 60 people in one of the Center’s smaller rooms.
All four groups have held recent protests in New York City. They also participated in the protests in Washington, DC, on January 20 when Donald Trump was inaugurated and the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. They are seeking a spot at the start of this year’s pride march, which comes on June 25. They want the parade, which began in 1970 on the one-year anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, to highlight the resistance to Congress and the Trump administration. They also want the parade to send a message to LGBTQ people across the country that the community is united in rejecting the current leaders in the nation’s capital.
“This parade has to not be a parade,” said Mark Milano, a member of ACT UP, the AIDS activist group. “It has to be a march saying ‘We refuse to give one inch.’”
HOP has contended with demands to alter the line of march in recent years. In 2011, after marriage was enacted in New York, a massive contingent led by Governor Andrew Cuomo was a late entrant in the parade. Last year, HOP initially resisted allowing Gays Against Guns in the parade in the spot reserved by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who invited the group in.
Registration for the 2017 march is still open.
Gays Against Guns was founded following the killings last June 12 of 49 people, most of them LGBTQ and Latinx, in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub. Its contingent in the 2016 parade numbered in the high hundreds and featured some striking visual elements. Members see this year’s political climate as requiring a response.
“Now it’s not about one example of the community being under siege,” said Jay Walker, a member of Rise + Resist and Gays Against Guns, said at the HOP meeting. “It’s about our entire community being under siege.”
Other speakers at the March 13 meeting noted that Muslims, LGBTQ youth, and transgender people of all ages feel particularly affected by the Trump administration and the Republican Congress. Their testimony was powerful, as two were reduced to tears as they spoke.
While the parade began as a political act commemorating the LGBTQ community’s best known act of resistance, it has become something closer to party or a celebration. The HOP leadership has tended to guard that non-confrontational tone.
In 2012, HOP complained to Gay City News after the paper covered that year’s parade by following the Occupy Wall Street contingent and noting that the group was followed by an undercover police officer for most of the route.
“I really wish you would have focused on something other than OWS in your coverage,” Tish Flynn, then HOP’s spokesperson, wrote in a 2012 email. “There were thousands of gorgeous costumes & groups involved that would have been a better choice.”
At the March 13 meeting, HOP’s posture was that it was listening to the groups and interested in coming to a resolution. “It’s without a doubt that all of us are affected by this,” David Studinski, one of two co-chairs at HOP, said at the meeting. “We want to open that dialogue… I’m confident we can pull something together that works.”
At the close of the discussion, the matter was referred to Julian Sanjivan, HOP’s march director, who will be chairing a meeting of his committee on March 21 at the Center.