On the 50th anniversary of the first Pride event, and the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots that kicked off the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, police in New York City shoved, pepper-sprayed, and arrested protesters at the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives Matter on Sunday, participants said.
The escalation began when police closed in to arrest a man who allegedly vandalized a police car with a black marker outside a rally near Washington Square Park, the New York Post reports. A crowd of protesters attempted to persuade the officers to let him go. But members of the New York Police Department used force on the crowd that had been peacefully gathering all day, according to marchers who documented the interactions on video that was posted to social media.
“Videos posted online showed the police pushing through the crowd on motorcycles, as one officer was knocked to the ground,” The New York Times reports. “Protesters said the police used pepper spray.”
The protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” at the officers prior to the escalation.
"We were dancing right in front of the arch on Fifth Ave. and out of nowhere, cops started storming into the crowd," participant Mike Perles told Gothamist. "They pushed everyone in front of them out of the way and onto the ground. They pushed a reporter who was taking photos down and started randomly pepper-spraying people. I couldn't see anyone instigating. It seemed like they felt outnumbered after entering a huge group and panicked and started beating people up."
The Reclaim Pride Coalition, the group that organized the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives Matter, tweeted that it ended its livestream of the march because “the NYPD began pepper spraying, making arrests, and using force.” Later the group tweeted that the march was a great success despite the use of force by police.
At least three participants were arrested, the New York Daily News reports.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, called for an investigation of the matter.