It’s no secret that Pride has become more and more corporate over the years; as the LGBTQ community has gained mainstream visibility, companies large and small have clambered to add rainbows to their brands, especially in Pride Month, June. While some have viewed that as progress, it leaves out the fact that Pride didn’t start out as a party, and there were no corporations lining up to put their stamp on it at the start. It was a rebellion against police brutality started by Black and Brown trans and queer folks.

The Queer Liberation March launched in 2019 as an alternative to the glitzy spectacle that Pride has become. It focused not on flashy floats and an endless flow of booze and glitter, but on protesting and the history of the LGBTQ movement. While the political and community organizations are often made to march at the back of the larger corporate Pride march, they took center stage at the QLM.

Flash forward to 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The large Pride march was cancelled in early spring and many wondered if there would be any in person gatherings at all. Then amidst the rising number of protests against police brutality happening all over the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police, it was announced in early June that the Queer Liberation March would be back for 2020. This march, like the gathering last year, would again be explicitly anti cop, anti corporate, and with the spotlight firmly on Black Lives Matter and Black leadership. This march would be a protest, not a party, with a very much heightened sense of urgency around the need to keep cops away and communities safe.

The march met at Foley Square, the spot of many previous high profile protests and just steps away from the current Occupy City Hall protest, and after brief remarks from the organizers and speakers from Black Trans Media, the march stepped off and headed through lower Manhattan. Thousands of people filled the street bearing signs that called for defunding the NYPD and abolishing the police. Many also carried signs remembering those lost, and many of the chants throughout the day were of the names of Black and Brown people taken too soon at the hands of police violence. A large focus was also on celebrating the history of the people -- Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera and countless others -- who fought to make Pride possible in the first place. And while there were a few vendors along the way, marchers were largely flanked with water stations and volunteers giving out free food, mutual aid and community care instead of a branding opportunity being hawked at outrageous prices.

Unfortunately, late in the afternoon, the NYPD descended on what had been a peaceful day and engaged in aggressive behavior, pushing and pepper spraying marchers in Washington Square Park. Gothamist reports that, according to a legal observer, at least four people were arrested and ten pepper sprayed. While this was definitely an ugly part of the day, it could not sully the entirety of the march or the meaning behind it. This march was a protest, this march was joyous, and in that joy was rebellion and resistance.

Check out pictures below.

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photos and words by Kate Hoos