Heritage of Pride Takes Heat Over Parade Route Change

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HOP’s march director Julian Sanjivan, Detective Carl Locke, the NYPD’s LGBTQ liaison, Patrol Borough Manhattan South Executive Officer James Kehoe, Patrol Services Bureau Executive Officer Fausto Pichardo, and Joseph Gallucci, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s citywide counterterrorism unit, at the June 5 town hall. | DONNA ACETO

The organization that produces New York City’s annual Pride Parade and related events first considered a controversial new route for this year’s parade in December 2016, but throughout the first six months of 2017, as it was negotiating a resistance contingent in last year’s parade, it never told activists in that contingent or the broader community that it was contemplating a change going forward.

“My concern is that [Heritage of Pride] has not consulted with the rest of the community,” said Sheri Clemons, who is a stalwart member of the LGBTQ community who regularly turns out for protests and meetings, during a heated June 5 town hall that was organized by Heritage of Pride (HOP), which produces the parade, the mayor’s office, and senior members of the NYPD. “You have to listen to the community and that also means reaching out and engaging… Everybody should have known that these changes would be disturbing.”

HOP shortened and reversed the 2018 parade route so it runs south on Seventh Avenue from Chelsea then east on Christopher and Eighth Streets before heading north again on Fifth Avenue to end at 29th Street. Contingents are limited to 200 people and the number of floats and vehicles has been reduced. HOP is expecting 43,000 marchers this year as opposed to 55,000 last year. HOP is making all marchers wear wristbands, a requirement that led to “No wristbands” chants during the town hall.

At town hall, angry response over lack of community input, long-undisclosed planning

In meetings held last month, HOP said that discussions with the NYPD and other city agencies about the new parade route began in August 2017. HOP ultimately presented the NYPD with six choices and the agency selected the route. While HOP meetings are public, it never announced the new route until after the final decision was made in January 2018. The December 2016 date was first acknowledged publicly in a PowerPoint presentation made at the June 5 town hall, which was held to explain the new march route.

Sheri Clemons holds up a sign expressing her displeasure with Heritage of Pride’s community engagement. | DONNA ACETO

The fact that discussions, even if they were only internal HOP deliberations, had begun months earlier and that the group had multiple opportunities to inform the community and activists as they negotiated the 2017 resistance contingent inflamed feelings at the town hall, which was already going to be contentious.

Ken Kidd, a longtime LGBTQ activist, was the lead negotiator for last year’s resistance contingent, organized to respond to the election of Donald Trump. He described the new route as a “stupid, small, rinky-dink route” and a “march to nowhere.” After the meeting, Kidd told Gay City News that “I was on the phone with them four times a week” and there were other chances for HOP to disclose the plan.

“That does not speak well to transparen­cy,” Kidd said during the town hall.

Out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose district includes major portions of the parade route, including the West Village and Chelsea, told Gay City News he was not brought into any discussions of the changes.

As Gay City News was going to press, the newspaper learned that Erik Bottcher, Johnson’s chief of staff, met with the mayor’s office and four HOP officers on May 31. They agreed to a community planning process for the march route for 2019 that could result in the route changing again. HOP and a representative of Johnson’s office who spoke at the meeting did not disclose this at the town hall.

Julian Sanjivan, HOP’s march director, conceded Tuesday evening that the group had missed the mark.

“Could we have done a better job at it?” he said during the two-hour town hall. “Clearly, yes, we could have done a better job at it.”

Last year, the sole demand was for a resistance contingent at the front of the march. This year, a group of activists with deep roots in the LGBTQ and other movements organized as the Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC) asked for a resistance contingent, a reduced corporate and police presence at the march, including two police-free zones in the West Village, an explanation for the new route, and that members of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) march without uniforms or weapons.

The Coalition members, who range in age from their early 20s to much older than that, were clearly not inclined to be generous, feeling that HOP has not been accessible. The longstanding complaint that large corporations dominate the parade is a central issue. Activists believe that HOP has torn the march from its roots in an anti-police riot and turned it into a commercial and a celebration.

“You think that making something public is the same thing as community engagement and it’s not,” said Jeremiah Johnson, a member of the Coalition. “You have to intentionally do that… My concern right now is that you guys are party planners with no sense of rebellion.”

For its part, HOP has responded that community groups and non-profits continue to make up 65 to 70 percent of the contingents in the parade and even the corporate contingents are made up of LGBTQ employees. Shortening the parade is not only an accommodation to the city, which must police and clean up after the parade, it is an accommodation to marchers who do not want to wait for hours to step off.

The new route is a test in anticipation of the far larger crowd expected next year for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The reasoning is that dispersing the crowd in Midtown, as opposed to the West Village, gives more public transportation options.

A panel comprised of HOP co-chair Maryanne Roberto Fine, Sanjivan, three senior NYPD officials, Matthew McMorrow from the mayor’s office, Detective Carl Locke, the NYPD’s LGBTQ liaison, Detective Brian Downey, GOAL’s president, and Lydia Figueroa, GOAL’s recording secretary, spent about 30 minutes presenting to the crowd of roughly 100.

When Sanjivan first mentioned the new route, it was greeted with hissing. Police officials and GOAL made presentations that were received politely. Audience questions and comments lasted about an hour and most of the heat was directed at HOP, though police and GOAL caught some flack. When panelists began to respond to the questions during the final 30 minutes of the town hall, there were repeated interruptions.

There were two sympathetic moments during the meeting. One came when Hannah Simpson, a transgender woman, praised the police.

Hannah Simpson, a transgender woman who expressed gratitude for the NYPD’s work. | DONNA ACETO

“What I can say is I’ve interacted with the NYPD on many levels, including sitting in on a hate crime investigation supporting a trans woman of color friend of mine,” Simpson said. “What you don’t hear about on the news are the thousands of officers who are saving lives and respecting us.”

The second came when Downey said, as he has before and as HOP has supported, that GOAL members would be marching in uniform.

“I will not dishonor Charlie Cochrane and Sam Ciccone by taking off those uniforms,” he said referring to two of the founders of the 36-year-old organization. That comment drew applause.

Updated 2:20 pm, September 4, 2018
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Reader feedback

Mark Milano says:
The level of anger in the room was palpable. While one person spoke in favor of the cops, dozens of other speakers all expressed their rage loudly and clearly, at the NYPD, at GOAL, and especially at HOP. It was clear that few in the room felt that HOP takes the interests of the community seriously, and instead colludes with the police to control and suppress us. I'm hopeful that this is the harbinger of major changes in the way Pride is managed.
June 7, 2018, Noon
Ken Kidd says:
If HOP really cared about honoring the wishes of the Community, and transparency—which still seems doubtful, especially given this new revelation that NYC Pride has been put on notice by the City that they *must* include Community input on next year’s planning right away this summer, yet they chose not to divulge that at our ‘open’ meeting!—they’d announce TODAY that they’ve heard the myriad complaints about the wristbands and are getting rid of the requirement. That would be a big step. Let’s see if they do.
June 7, 2018, 1:48 pm
Danny Perez says:
I'm not sure either Heritage of Pride or the angry people at the Center represent the broader LGBTQ community. Last year, I participated in the March by walking with my corporate employer (something the crowd would have hated), which I took great pride in doing. But we were in the second-to-last section and we waited almost 4 hours before beginning the March and ended it after the sun was down with pitiful small crowds on the sidewalks around us. HOP has to find a better way to communicate these kind of delays and offer more transparency and fairness around the line-up and why some groups never get to be near the front. I don't think wristbands are the best solution, but I am glad HOP is trying to make the March shorter. I think the resistance people have some good points, but I also heard them demanding that they be placed at the front so they can be on the broadcast and I wonder why they think they're so special that they should take priority over all the rest of us who want to celebrate and show our pride. Everyone at that meeting has some soul searching to do.
June 7, 2018, 2:20 pm
Sheri Clemons says:
Danniy, the people at the Center represented a pretty wide swath of the GLBTQIA+ community. Also, my tae of the even was that people were not angry, but were impassioned, which is a big difference. The length of the route in and of itself does not make the march longer or shorter. It is the number of people stepping off at the beginning of the route which makes the march longer. There are delays with people stepping off at the beginning of the route because the NYPD stops the march at various cross streets to let traffic pass through the march.If those cross street traffic delays were stopped, the march would conclude in less time. As far as waiting to step off, everryone, including the Sirens Motorcycle Club, Empire City Motorcycle Club and other motorcycleists at the very beginning of the march have to arrive and wait for a significant amount of time before stepping off at 12 noon. HOP could ask people to arrive at the assembly point closer to the time each group is stepping off. People who come to watch the march don't all arrive at noon and leave at four or five in the afternoon. People arrive at varous times throughout the afternoon, and then leave the march to go to other HOP run and sponsored events, which happen latter in the day. Perhaps moving the afternoon/early evening events back a couple of hours would mean more people would stay to watch the entire march.
June 7, 2018, 9:43 pm
Sheri Clemons says:
* Danny, (I am sorry about my typo).
June 7, 2018, 9:44 pm
Danny Perez says:
There was booing and hissing and interruptions throughout the whole meeting. I stand by my characterization of the crowd as "angry." But I heard Mr Sanjivan say that they tried to put groups involving lots of elderly people or young children or people with disabilities or people of color near the front instead of the resistance (which I think is great) and the audience that had spent half the meeting claiming they were there for disabled and minority communities interrupted him and booed him. I don't think either side was listening to each other. A lot of anger, no dialogue. And I don't think that was entirely Heritage of Pride's fault. I don't think Heritage of Pride is a well-run organization, but I also shudder to think that the people in that room represent a "pretty wide swath of the GLBTQIA+ community" because none of them sound like any of the people I know or associate with. They sounded like unreasonable extremists no different from far-right Trump supporters more interested in shouting until they got their way than listening to an opposing point of view.
June 7, 2018, 11:52 pm
Sheri Clemons says:
If and when HOP opens up its decision making process, and does actual outreach to the community to solicit input into the planning, you will see that the issues represented at this meating by those in this week's audience will be the issues raised then, along with additional issues and ideas. I don't recall Mr. Sanjivan being booed or interruped for wanting to put people of of differing abilities, and people of color towards the front of the march. Activists want the resistantce portion of the march placed in the march before the broadcasting of the march stop, because resistance to the Trupmp Administration policies against LGBT people, people of color and people of differing abilites is critical in this time of our history. Check out the videos of the meeting which have been posted on line for everyone to see. People were upset that HOP had not been transparent, and were resisting input from the community at large. But people, athough impassioned were respectful, especially considering how upset they were.
June 8, 2018, 12:52 am
Sheri Clemons says:
*HOP was resisting input.
June 8, 2018, 12:53 am
QueerWestVillager says:
HOP was resisting input? Not sure we were at the same meeting. The meeting I attended had an audience filled with rude, immature, hissing, and booing people who had no intentions on having a dialogue.During the q and a, almost every person got up and bashed HOP AND/or NYPD, and then, only a handful even asked a question. Obnoxiois, indignant, accusatory comments that did nothing to propel discussion. When it came time for HOP to respond, they were greeted with hostile questions being shouted out from the audience. Further, not all of the 100 or so people in that room were with RPC, and to state that fewer than 100 represent the desires of the entirety of the queer community is both naive and ignorant. Who are you to judge the intentions of a non profit organization run by volunteers who ARE PART OF THE QUEER COMMUNITY?? Curious, did you want an engraved invitation to the March planning meetings seeing you seem to believe that a publicly published calendar is neither inviting enough or transparant enough? I am a part of the community. I cared enough about the March to get myself involved and it didn’t take a whole lot of investigation to find the HOP website and calendar. To sit in your place of privilege and take pot shots at HOP without ever spending any time volunteering with them is irresponsible. Frankly, I am embarrassed by the hostile nature of MY community. Grow up.
June 8, 2018, 8:25 am
Carol Demech says:
I was and still am impassioned and angry. The new route is not acceptable. We need to march up or down 5th Avenue right past St Patricks loud and proud. The March can be over in 3-4 hours if the cops do not stop the March to let traffic go East and West. The police and the CIty are still disrespecting the LGBT community.
June 8, 2018, 3:03 pm
Sheri Clemons says:
Here is a link to a 2+ hour video of the meeting. The meeting you described did not happen. People were impassioned, but listenend, commented and asked questions in the segment alotted to the audience by HOP. If and when HOP opens up its decision making process, and does actual outreach to the community to solicit input into the planning, you will see that the issues represented at this meating by those in this week's audience will be the issues raised then, along with additional issues and ideas.
June 9, 2018, 2:49 am
Sheri Clemons says:
Below is a link to a 2+ hour video of the meeting. Duncan Osborne's article was spot on in describing the meeting. I would encourage people to watch the video to see for themselves that those in the audience were enrnest, and impassioned about adressing the lack of transparancey by HOP in changing and drastically reducing the route of the march, the HOP demand that all participants wear wristbands, and the limitation of ecah particicpating organization to 200 marchers. These changes are unacceptable and the lack of transparancey with which the changes were made is unacceptable. The link to the video:
June 9, 2018, 3:06 am
QueerWestVillager says:
I have no need to watch a video, I was there. I even saw you sitting in the front with your sign. Although watching the video will absolutely show the immaturity and rudeness of the audience. HOP and NYPD Spoke for about a half hour amid the ridiculously rude hissing. After the “questions” were asked, when HOP attempted to respond, hecklers shouted from their seats interrupting constantly. RPC didnt want answers. They didn’t want a conversation. They wanted to scream. And they did. We are all passionate. Some of us remember respect. The amount of misinformation and misguided righteousness spewed by RPC is what is unacceptable. Just curious, do any of you who believe the route is unacceptable know which way the first March went? UP 5th. It headed north for several years after that. It has also gone down 7th, and up 6th. Bluntly, do your homework before making ignorant claims about where you think the route belongs. It has gone up and down 5th, 6th, and 7th historically. And do you have any clue when the March stopped going past St. Pat’s? 2009. Where have you been since then, or were you waiting for your engraved invitation from HOP before you’d get involved? Again, just because you are loud and rude does not mean you represent the “community” any better than I do or my neighbors (who have manners and are educated in the subject) or HOP.
June 9, 2018, 10:55 am
Ready For Change says:
Let's all repeat the problem: HOP is no longer a volunteer-led organization, as some have claimed here. Staff make decisions, often based on financials that prioritize their own salaries, and the committees have become shams to mask increasing personnel expenses. Big problem coming up: expenses related to travel this year for HOP staff and chairs to "participate" in Pride events in the run-up to Stonewall 50. How much is this travel costing, for how many people, to do what exactly? We as a community should demand that these funds be re-directed to a NYC Pride re-organization fund: monthly meetings to create a new organizational structure and decision-making process for NYC Pride. July meeting?
June 9, 2018, 5:24 pm
LittbldearNYC says:
As someone on the committee (Christopher St Liberation Day Committee) who helped plan the marches in the Mid-late1970s before the HOP was founded I can say that we marched uptown because the idea was to march out of the ghetto, not into it. And we had a destination - the after-march rally in Central Park. The one year we marched up 6th Ave showed us how little the city officials thought of us and we demanded the next year be up 5th Ave like all of the other major events from Parades to the anti-Vietnam war marches. I was not at the meeting but the big problem with the new march route (besides the corporatization of Pride, arrogance of HOP, and desire by HOP to exclude the original reason to participate -protest) is that it leads nowhere. Not to a rally, not to the Pride Festival, not to where Stonewall occurred. Just nowhere.
June 9, 2018, 6:30 pm
Sheri Clemons says:
I think you do need to watch the video. It does not show either imatuirty or rudness of thee audience. Other people will watch the video and draw their own conclusions.
June 11, 2018, 3:11 am
HOPper says:
Cross-town traffic was ended for all parades in the city beginning in 2017 as a response to terror attacks in France and elsewhere that involved people driving vehicles into crowded celebrations. Only two things stopped the Pride March last year - very brief stops to allow pedestrian crossing (usually done during naturally occurring gaps in the March) and radical anarchist protesters. So, no, the March can't be over in 3-4 hours without taking other steps to limit the size. We DID NOT have cops stopping the March for traffic in 2017 and it STILL lasted almost 10 hours. Like so many members of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, you don't know what you're talking about and aren't interested in hearing an explanation that doesn't agree with your agenda.
June 11, 2018, 9:18 am
DAVID says:
Just a history point. The first Parade was in 1970 and marched uptown to Central Park, using only 1/2 of 6th Avenue. A Rally/Speech fest was held in the Park. One year, a split occurred when X amount of Lesbians angered over Drag Queens were honored and GRACE JONES, as a Guest, sang "I NEED A MAN"... The Parade went from being known as "GAY PRIDE" to GAY AND LESBIAN March. One year, the Parade marched down 5th to Washington Square. One of the guest singers was BETTE MIDLER. The EVERHARD BATHS had a major fire that year..
June 11, 2018, 8:07 pm
johncrittenden says:
I've attended the march annually since the first one. (Missed only twice -- once to go to San Francisco and see their larger, less diverse, less spirited parade, and once due to downpours here.) In the early years, the police didn't close the whole avenue and hustled us along to get the march over as quickly as possible. Then at some point, perhaps 20 to 25 years ago, the number of marchers increased exponentially and the parade slowed to a crawl, with many stops and starts as police tightened control. Every year another negative impact -- more barriers, less movement allowed, having to walk blocks to cross the street, no joining the march from the sidelines. Now we're looking at wrist bands and limits on contingents. This is not freedom of assembly. This is not freedom of association. Not freedom of expression and speech. My pride includes GOAL; I can remember when the group had only three marchers! My pride includes the Resistance; there will be more than 200 in that contingent whether the cops like it or not! Clearly the community has been betrayed by its would be leaders who are going along to get along. HOP needs to be scrapped and a new sponsoring organization formed. This can't be allowed to slide for another year. New York deserves better!
June 13, 2018, 4:56 am
Charles G. says:
Now can we please have a community meeting to discuss HOP budget? How much is being spent on "travel" for HOP "people" to vacation to other cities? These are community resources, which should be spent directly on community projects. Full transparency is now needed on these expenses!
June 13, 2018, 5:47 am
krishnastone says:
I unconditionally stand by the brave and beautiful work of Heritage of Pride/NYC Pride and GOAL-NY.
June 15, 2018, 11:44 am
Susan says:
Okay - so its great to see that so many people are paying attention to whats happening with one of the biggest celebrations that the Gay community has each year! My partner of 35 years and I totally agree with the ridiculousness of reversing the parade to end up in a neighborhood not near the Village, or the Stonewall, or any place that can be celebrated happily by anybody in the LBGTQ Community!! 29th Street!! What is on 29th Street. Absolutely nothing of any importance. Why would HOP possibly think that dispersing the March on Fifth Ave. and 29th Street would advantageous to anyone on the LGBTQ communitity. The Manhattan Pridefest has also been moved from Hudson Street between 14th St. and Abbington Square to University Place between 13th St. and 8th Street. And this fact had not been advertised. ABC has been advertising the March but not the Pridefest.Whats going on! We have been vendors for over 25 years in all the Manhattan Pridefests and also Brooklyn and Queens. But particularly the Manhattan Pridefest has been the most fabulous, exciting and terrific place for everyone to come to after the March. At this time we don't even know if everyone knows that the Pridest has been moved or where its going to be. A lot of people in the March may be from out of town or out of Manhattan and will not know where the Pridefest has been moved to or how to get there since the March no longer ends in the Village or anywhere near it!! Thank you.
June 18, 2018, 1:17 pm

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