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Police ‘arrested and pepper-sprayed’ peaceful queer protesters in New York, 51 years to the day after Stonewall

Reiss Smith June 29, 2020
Police pushing a person off their bike and dragging another along a street

Police dragged and shoved protesters in New York. (NBC/News4)

A peaceful Queer Liberation March held in New York City to mark the 51st anniversary of Stonewall was marred by police brutality.

Thousands of queer people and allies joined together on Sunday (June 28), marching behind a banner that read “for Black lives and against police brutality”.

What began as powerful and peaceful protest escalated a few hours in, after police confronted demonstrators.

Videos shared widely on Twitter show New York Police Department officers pushing people to the ground, hitting them with batons and using pepper spray on crowds.

Police reportedly ran into crowds as the march passed Washington Square Park – just a few miles away from the Stonewall Inn, where 51 years ago a violent police raid on a queer bar gave birth to the LGBT+ rights movement.

The confrontation was reportedly sparked when officers arrested one person, at about 5pm, who they alleged had graffitied a nearby building.

Eliel Cruz, whose footage of the police brutality went viral, told BuzzFeed News that protesters were effectively ambushed.

“It was very peaceful, very chill. I didn’t see much police presence,” he said.

“Then I saw 20 cops on bikes and a few cop cars speed up right away, so I walked a little quicker.”

He added: “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.”

Pictures showed a number of people pouring water over their faces to counteract the effects of pepper spray.

Pose star Indya Moore tweeted that “Black, brown and white queer and trans Lives were threatened and harmed by police” during the march.

They were one of many to criticise New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who tweeted message honouring “the Black, trans activists” who took part in Stonewall, while an all-too-similar confrontation between police and queer communities was taking place.

“While the @NYCMayor shared tweets of support of our community the police shared mace pepper spray handcuffs and violent force against us,” Moore added.

In a statement, the organisers of the march said they were “horrified and furious at the brutal police attack on peaceful marchers using pepper spray, violent shoving, and arrests”.

“At the exact moment that Mayor de Blasio tweeted about honouring Stonewall and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement, the NYPD completely overreacted with unprovoked physical violence — including pepper spraying their own colleagues,” the statement read, via GCN.

“Using pepper spray against the Black and queer community, beating LGBTQIA+ protestors with batons and bicycles, and intimidating our right to peacefully assemble, reflects the wanton disregard that the mayor, along with the NYPD, have for the lives and safety all Black and queer New Yorkers.”

New York politicians condemn police brutality against queer protesters.

The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, however a number of city politicians have condemned the police’s actions.

New York City council speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, called for a full investigation.

“The first Pride started as a response to police brutality,” he tweeted.

“Today, peaceful protesters were pepper sprayed on the 51st anniversary of Stonewall. This is incredibly disturbing.”

Borough president of Manhattan Gale A. Brewer shared concerns that NYPD “failed in their duty to protect… and de-escalate”.

Amid growing calls for NYPD to be defunded, she added: “We need answers, especially as we approach a potential budget agreement defining our city’s values.”

Public advocate Humane Williams agreed, noting: “We deserve and need answers about a video like this on any day. How much more so today on the anniversary of Stonewall.”

PinkNews has contacted the NYPD for comment.

More: black lives matter, New York, NYPD, police brutality, Pride

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