LGBTQ advocates offered a scathing rebuke of the New York City Police Department after a peaceful protest appeared to end in a violent standoff on Sunday, the day originally intended for the city’s Pride parade.
According to the Reclaim Pride Coalition, the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality drew roughly 50,000 demonstrators. Participants gathered in Manhattan’s Foley Square before heading uptown past the Stonewall Inn and into Washington Square Park.
Tensions erupted, however, once the protesters reached the final stop on the trek, where a rally was held.
Widely circulated video footage appears to show law enforcement officers aggressively shoving many of the demonstrators and at least one officer using pepper spray.
“The actions of the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple… I vow to the LGBTQ community that this [discrimination and oppression] would never happen in NYPD in 2019,” said Former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill on June 6, 2019.
But the NYPD in 2020? See for yourself: pic.twitter.com/ipyD1dAXPr
— Reclaim Pride Coalition (@queermarch) June 29, 2020
In an email to HuffPost, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed that three protesters ― Millen Dang, 20, Michael Dunn, 29, and Jacob Kruger, 25 ― were arrested during Sunday’s rally.
“Officers had just taken a man into custody for vandalizing an NYPD vehicle when a group attempted to overpower the two escorting officers and remove the male from police custody,” Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell said. “The officers requested back up to extricate both themselves and the individual arrested. Over the next few minutes, several of our officers who responded to the call for assistance were assaulted and had department property removed from their persons. This conduct is illegal and unacceptable.”
Noting that the NYPD had made “tremendous strides to improve and redefine our relationship with the LGBTQ communities,” she added, “In no way was there ‘a clash’ between police and protestors. That is simply a false narrative.”
Police pepper sprayed peaceful demonstrators on the anniversary of stonewall outside Washington square park pic.twitter.com/3X2S2E31ep
— Marti Gould Cummings (@MartiGCummings) June 28, 2020
Still, the footage infuriated many advocacy groups, who pointed to the fact that the apparent standoff took place some 51 years after the 1969 Stonewall uprising, historically seen as the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
“In 1969, LGBTQ people rose up and resisted police brutality at Stonewall. In 2020, we saw this anniversary met with more violence and oppression,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David tweeted. “We need a radical transformation of policing NOW.”
These cops just got ran up on people pic.twitter.com/RnibVPjKfm
— Eliel Cruz (@elielcruz) June 28, 2020
GLAAD wrote: “That this happened at all, let alone on the anniversary of Stonewall, an uprising against police brutality, defies common sense and basic humanity.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson condemned the police violence in the clips as “incredibly disturbing,” adding, “We need a full investigation into what happened today.”
The Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality was one of a handful of events being held on days previously reserved for traditional LGBTQ Pride celebrations in the U.S. before the coronavirus became a global pandemic.
With parades canceled and nightlife venues closed due to the virus, many LGBTQ advocates have expressed hope that Pride ― criticized in recent years for relying too heavily on corporate sponsors ― would return to its roots as a protest for social justice.
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