Protests for Gaza Ring Loud at the New York City Pride March

New York Police Department (NYPD) officers detained 10 people who staged a protest for Palestine during the city’s Pride March yesterday, June 30, briefly halting the procession just a block before the Stonewall Inn.

Commemorating the 55th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which protested a police raid of the eponymous gay bar, the historic procession has always been a site for political organizing. This year’s event proved no different, as many participants seized the opportunity to spotlight issues including abortion rights, protections for trans community members, and fair contracts for unionized workers. But by and large, Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza appeared to be one of the most pressing issues on the minds of marchers and spectators. LGBTQ+ SWANA organization Tarab NYC showcased a “Free Palestine” float, and many individuals, including 2024 Pride Grand Marshals Miss Major and Raquel Willis, showed solidarity with Palestine through flags, homemade signs, watermelon ephemera, and keffiyehs while proceeding down the route from 25th Street through the West Village. 

A “Free Palestine” float organized by LGBTQ+ Middle Eastern and North African organization Tarab NYC was one of the biggest displays of support for Palestinian liberation at this year’s march, drawing cheers from spectators on 7th Avenue as it passed by.

A protest for Gaza in the second half of the march underscored the growing urgency for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Shortly before 2:30pm, 11 activists with the Coalition of Fruits to Free Palestine (CFF), a group affiliated with Writers Against the War on Gaza, broke through the barricades lining Christopher Street to spray red paint onto the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Pride float and attached pickup truck. Afterward, they obstructed the motorcade with a banner display that read “No Queer Liberation Without Palestinian Liberation” and “Palestine Will Be Free.”

Lasting approximately half an hour, the demonstration came after a rally in February at HRC’s annual Greater New York Dinner, during which activists demanded the nonprofit call for a ceasefire in Gaza and protested its financial ties to weapons manufacturers Northrop Grumman, which is listed as a “Platinum Partner” on HRC’s website.

The march was temporarily halted for a demonstration for Gaza, protesting Human Rights Campaign’s financial ties to weapons manufacturers.

The group also distributed yellow leaflets criticizing “pinkwashing zionists” and “rainbow capitalism.”

“We stand with f-ggots fighting for the death of empire. With d-kes burning ‘american’ and ‘israeli’ flags,” the flyers read. These pamphlets also reference figures like Argentinian trans activist Cecilia Gentili, whose untimely death in February was recently memorialized alongside those who have been killed in Gaza in an ACT UP action at Fire Island’s Trailblazers Park, and United States Air Force service member Aaron Bushnell, who died in February by self-immolation in protest of US support for Israel in its assault of Gaza.

Left: protesters doused Human Rights Campaign’s float with red paint that spouted out of canisters decorated in fake flowers; right: activists also distributed yellow leaflets explaining the cause for their action.

“We stand in solidarity with every last Palestinian, down to the most unspectacular, the most imperfect among them, lest some of us forget that none of them deserved any of this, that their deaths too should shame us into action,” the text concluded.

The protest temporarily halted the march for about half an hour on Christopher Street, just one block ahead of the Stonewall Inn.

While many spectators vocalized their support for the protest by chanting “Free Palestine” along with the activists, some bystanders criticized the action. Ben Siggers, a spectator visiting from Baltimore who was standing on the same block when the protest unfurled, told Hyperallergic that he disagreed with “hijacking someone else’s float.” Ayesha and Ishmael Mohammed, a couple from New Jersey, also shared similar thoughts about the interruption to the march, saying that they agreed with the protest’s cause, but felt it was staged at the “wrong time.” One of the most vocal objections to the demonstration came from march volunteer staff member and trans rights advocate TS Candii, who was witnessed and recorded by Hyperallergic shouting “Fuck Palestine” in the middle of Christopher Street during the action.

Many spectators watching the protest cheered on activists by shouting “Free Palestine” and “Shame!” when police began making arrests.

“We are for free Palestine. We stand with them, but we stand for peaceful protest,” Candii said in a follow-up comment to Hyperallergic, criticizing the action for “being disruptive and purposely stopping traffic.”

Five minutes after protestors refused march organizers’ request to move along, officers took 10 of the demonstrators into custody as crowds of bystanders yelled, “Shame!” A representative for the NYPD later told Hyperallergic that seven of the activists received court summons on charges of disorderly conduct, while three were arrested on charges of governmental obstruction and criminal mischief.

Two of the arrested protesters, writer and musician H. Sinno and novelist Kathleen Alcott, told Hyperallergic that they were held overnight in Manhattan’s Central Booking location “in shocking and inhumane conditions,” describing an experience mired with rodent infestation, verbal abuse and threats of violence, physical assault, consistent misgendering, and sexually explicit commentary about their bodies.

New York Police Department officers took 10 people into custody for disorderly conduct, governmental obstruction, and criminal mischief

When the procession resumed at around 3pm, many spectators who had witnessed the protest and arrests loudly heckled HRC’s float.

“Pride is protest and we welcome all voices in today’s March. We respect the protesters’ right to demonstrate while keeping the March safe and flowing for all participants,” NYC Pride, the organization that runs the procession, told Hyperallergic in a statement. HRC has not yet responded to Hyperallergic‘s media inquiry.

Many spectators who had witnessed the protest and arrests continued to heckle Human Rights Campaign’s float when the march resumed.

Yesterday’s march, which ended early at around 4pm due to “inclement weather,” followed a banner demonstration for Gaza at the NYC AIDS Memorial on early Friday morning. Organized by ACT UP and Jewish Voice for Peace in advance of President Joe Biden’s visit to the newly opened Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, the action involved the display of two banners and dozens of wheat-pasted posters, calling on Biden to halt weapons shipments to Israel amid its ongoing attacks on Gaza.

As per tradition, hundreds flocked to Washington Square Park to cool off in the public fountain and underneath the trees.
Spectators showed support for the event with all kinds of rainbow accessories, from pins and socks to massive flags and full face masks.
The march was teeming with extravagant costumes centering around LGBTQ+ pride.
Many marchers seized the opportunity to spotlight issues including Israel’s assault on Gaza, risks to abortion rights, protections for trans community members, and fair contracts for unionized workers
Police officers swarmed Christopher Street to shut down the sit-in within half an hour after it began.
Women, nonbinary, and trans motorcycle club the Sirens helped kick off the procession with a vibrant display of rainbows on wheels.
Megan told Hyperallergic that she included butterfly designs in her clown makeup to honor her recent coming out as a lesbian.
On the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, tens of thousands of people packed New York City’s streets to celebrate the historic event that helped launch the queer rights movement.

Editor’s note 7/2/24 10:30am EST: This article has been updated with the names of two protesters who were arrested.

Read More

Maya Pontone