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NYC's Pride is back: March planned after 2020 cancellation amid pandemic

Participants in the 2019 NYC Pride March raise

Participants in the 2019 NYC Pride March raise a rainbow flag. An in-person march is scheduled for June after being canceled last year amid the pandemic. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Organizers of Pride, New York City’s annual event commemorating the history-changing riots at Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn in 1969, are planning to hold an in-person march — a year after it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The march, to be held Sunday, June 27, with "as to-be-determined in-person elements," is to complement a planned virtual event, according to a news release issued Thursday by Heritage of Pride, the event organizers.

The 2021 theme is "The Fight Continues," to mark "a time of tremendous adversity for the community on many fronts," the release said, and "reflects the multitude of battles we’ve been fighting as a country and as a city," including the coronavirus pandemic, "economic hardship" and issues relating to LGBTQ rights.

Pride, which has spawned celebrations around the world, commemorates what happened June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, when fed-up patrons hurled bricks, fists and trash cans at NYPD cops who had raided the bar.

Police raids of such establishments — often run by the Mafia, since a legitimate, legal proprietorship was nearly impossible in those days — were common at a time when homosexuality, gay gathering places and even failing to wear a sufficient amount of clothing that corresponded to traditional notions of sex and gender, were all illegal.

Those riots — which continued for days — marked a turning point in the gay-rights movement and are credited with catalyzing a more confrontational, and less deferential, approach to activism.

Exactly a year later, in 1970, a parade commemorated the riots. Thousands took part in that march — 51 blocks from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Some cops turned their backs on participants to convey contempt, and some onlookers tried to disrupt the event, but it proceeded nonetheless.

Five decades later, New York City hosts the world's biggest Pride event, which in 2019 drew millions of spectators and marchers.

For 2020, New York City’s main Pride event, like nearly every other parade that year, including for St. Patrick’s Day, Israel and Puerto Rico, was canceled and supplanted with online programming.

Despite the cancellation, tens of thousands marched, with some NYPD acquiescence, from lower Manhattan to Greenwich Village as part of a "Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality." Like similar protests held in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota, the gathering defied New York State's order banning mass gatherings during the pandemic.

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