On Sunday, June 28, New York City protesters gathered for the second annual Queer Liberation March in support of LGBTQ+ and Black lives. Organized by Reclaim Pride, the march took place on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall uprising on the final day of NYC Pride.
According to first-hand witnesses, New York Police Department officers used excessive force on protesters at an otherwise “peaceful” and “beautiful” event, per BuzzFeed News.
Two witnesses told the outlet that they saw officers “running into crowds, using pepper spray, and beating protestors with batons near Washington Square Park.”
Several protesters and witnesses gave similar accounts to Gothamist. Reclaim Pride also noted on Twitter that they had to end their livestream early because of the NYPD pepper spraying and making arrests.
Before the officers intervened, the march “was very peaceful, very chill,” protester Eliel Cruz told BuzzFeed News. “I didn’t see much police presence. Then I saw 20 cops on bikes and a few cop cars speed up right away, so I walked a little quicker. I walked by five or six people on the ground who were pepper sprayed and were washing their eyes.”
Cruz added that in total, he saw at least 10 people who’d been pepper sprayed that day, and he saw at least one person get arrested.
“We were demanding the police release the protester, and they started to beat people… There were more cops running toward the crowds and pushing people.”
Several viral tweets show videos of the NYPD’s clashes with protesters.
These cops just got ran up on people pic.twitter.com/RnibVPjKfm
— Eliel Cruz (@elielcruz) June 28, 2020
The Queer Liberation March aimed to reclaim the original history of Pride, which began in remembrance of the Stonewall uprisings against police brutality. Organizers centered Black queer and trans people and the fight against police brutality at the event.
For some protesters, the NYPD’s response felt like a repeat of history. “The NYPD is going ballistic. The situation was at a point where this was almost Stonewall 2,” one witness said while livestreaming on Facebook.
the nypd are brutalizing protesters at the queer liberation march on Pride of all days. remember that Stonewall started as a riot against the police. https://t.co/IvD7HmLEPV
— Erin Taylor (@erinisaway) June 28, 2020
According to Cruz, the clash began to subside when a large group of protesters linked arms to form a barricade, prompting the police to retreat.
An NYPD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that they have not “been made aware of” any arrests or use of force and that the NYPD does not use tear gas.