A coalition that has been challenging the producer of New York City’s annual Pride Parade to limit the corporate presence in that event is calling for a separate “civil rights march” in 2019 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
“LGBTQ+ resistance and liberation are woven through the decades-long history of Pride, and we must honor that and continue the fight on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion,” said Ann Northrop, a longtime activist and member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC), in an October 16 press release.
Heritage of Pride (HOP), which produces the city’s annual Pride Parade and related events, has been under fire by activists since 2017 when it reluctantly admitted a resistance contingent to the parade. That contingent showcased community opposition to Donald Trump, a celebrity who won the White House in 2016.
This year, activists unsuccessfully sought to limit the police and corporate presence in the parade and the policing of the parade. Among other demands, activists sought a resistance contingent this year, which they won. At the start of this year’s organizing, there was a clear understanding among the RPC members that they were also focused on the 50th anniversary.
RPC members have attended HOP public meetings and have held private meetings with the organization, as well, seeking to change the tenor of next year’s parade. Publicly, RPC members have said that HOP organizers are little more than party planners who have no interest in the LGBTQ community’s history or politics. Activists sought a 2019 march that looks more like the early marches that featured community groups and small businesses that if not LGBTQ-owned were directly serving the queer community.
“They are not willing to do that,” Northrop told Gay City News, referring to HOP.
The first march marking the 1969 riots happened in 1970. Since then, the event has been contested both within and from outside the LGBTQ community. HOP was incorporated in 1985 and there have been persistent complaints about the corporate presence in the parade. In recent years, corporate sponsors, whose cash funds much of the parade and related events, have been allowed to purchase a spot at the front of the parade. While community groups still comprise most of the parade contingents, the corporations dominate the event with large floats and many marchers.
The RPC will have an organizing meeting for its 2019 march on December 5 at the People’s Forum on West 37th Street. Northrop told Gay City News that the city is receptive to the march. She has been contacted by the city’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management, and Corey Johnson, the out gay speaker of the City Council, has expressed his support.
“I actually think that it would be more powerful to have something for Stonewall 50 more in line with the March for our Lives and the Women’s March,” Johnson said on the October 3 episode of Gay USA, the weekly cable program. “I don’t like all the corporations having the big floats and being at the front of the parade ahead of everyone else… That’s not in the spirit of the gay rights movement and what we did.”
Northrop hosts Gay USA with Andy Humm, a Gay City News contributor. Johnson was a guest co-host on that episode.
“They are all totally friendly to our march,” Northrop told Gay City News. “The sticking point is the scheduling.”
The RPC members are also objecting to an HOP proposal to hold the opening ceremony of next year’s events at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Operating rights to that venue are owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch and billionaire. It is operated, in turn, by AEG Facilities, which is owned by Philip Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire and funder of conservative and anti-LGBTQ organizations, politicians, and causes.
“Heritage of Pride has a long track record of sucking up to corporations at the expense of those who live and died for LGBTQ+ liberation, but HOP potentially funding our own political enemies, by renting out a property that homophobe Philip Anschutz’s company manages, sinks to a new low, especially on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” Brandon Cuicchi, an RPC member, said in the press release.
While Anschutz now says he no longer funds anti-LGBTQ groups, his history of funding such causes dates to at least 1992 when he gave $10,000 to Colorado for Family Values, the group that sponsored a state ballot initiative that barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in that state from seeking anti-discrimination laws except through a state ballot initiative. The initiative invalidated laws that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in three Colorado cities. The measure passed, but was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1996.
As is typically the case, HOP did not respond to a request for comment.