Hundreds of community members waved their rainbow flags and cheered along 37th Avenue, where elected officials, community groups and businesses marked the start of LGBTQ Pride Month.
The annual parade was founded 27 years ago by the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, led by Councilman Daniel Dromm. They began the tradition after the 1990 murder of Julio Rivera, a gay man who was killed by three skinheads in Jackson Heights.
“That was an act of violence that, initially, the police department didn’t even really want to investigate,” Dromm said. “It took community organizing to make that happen.”
Despite the celebratory nature of the event, organizers still point to ongoing anti-LGBTQ violence that continue today. On Saturday, an arsonist burned two rainbow flags outside of an LGBTQ bar in Harlem.
Prior to the start of the parade, elected officials and advocates condemned the flag burning, as well as last year’s attack on a gay man immediately after the Queens Pride Parade.
Community organizer Daniel Puerto noted that six black transgender women have been killed this year alone. He also highlighted the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago as further examples of anti-LGBTQ attacks.
“Hate has no place in New York City, and an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” he said. “We won’t stay quiet to hate violence, and we will demand respect.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement read by his senior advisor for LGBTQ community affairs Matthew McMorrow, said as the city celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, they will recommit themselves to the fight for equality and justice.
The NYPD is investigating the Harlem incident as a hate crime and “will find whoever is responsible,” he said.
“Love is stronger than hate, pride is stronger than fear,” de Blasio said. “LGBTQ New Yorkers will not be intimidated by this disgusting act of bigotry.”
State Senator Jessica Ramos said despite passing legislation in Albany, including the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and banning conversion therapy, it’s hard to “legislate our way out of hate.”
She said the community, especially non-LGBTQ allies, should work to stop hate.
“Make sure we’re stopping people when they’re making transphobic and homophobic comments,” Ramos said. “Those are the difficult conversations we need to be leading in order to cut and nip in the bud all of the hatred that has been created, reinforced and exacerbated by the bigot in the White House.”
LGBTQ activist Cecilia Gentili, who recently formed Transgender Equality Consulting, said incidents like what happened in Harlem are meant to infuse fear.
“We are not going back to the shadows,” Gentili said. “We are proud, we are here and we are queer.”