Recently, a group of activists delivered a series of demands to the offices of Heritage of Pride (HOP), related to our operation of the NYC Pride March. After careful consideration and discussion among our leadership with members, stakeholders, and city agency representatives, we would like to take this opportunity to respond, and also share some additional information as to how we run one of the world’s most visible LGBTQIA+ events.
For most of the millions of people who attend NYC Pride each year, it may be hard to imagine just how events of this size come together. If you are not familiar with how Heritage of Pride functions, here’s a little bit about us:
In 2018, we will produce directly or in-partnership, a total of 18 different events from June 14–24.
Structurally, we’re a nonprofit membership organization, with 77 Members, a 13-person Executive Board, and 10 full-time and seasonal staff.
Our Members are our most dedicated from the nearly 1,000 volunteers we engage annually, committing a great deal of time and energy to committee meetings, work sessions, and staffing our events.
In addition to producing events, we are committed to supporting the greater LGBTQIA+ community. We do this through financial support for smaller nonprofits, and volunteering at other community events and organizations.
We strive to be transparent and accessible in how we operate by making all General Membership Meetings and nearly all of our smaller committee-level meetings, open to the public.
PREPARING THE MARCH FOR STONEWALL 50
As we get ready for 2019, we’ve been adding new events to our roster, and making some exciting changes to our tentpole events. One of the most significant of those changes is to the NYC Pride March route.
When we started planning for Stonewall 50 / WorldPride 2019 NYC a few years ago, we knew one of our greatest challenges would be how to handle the record-shattering crowds expected for the 2019 March. The March was already going way over its target time length of 5 hours, and in 2017 it ran 9.5 hours, leaving groups toward the back of the March, like the New York Gay Football League, Las Buenas Amigas, and the Legal Aid Society, marching after dark with sparse crowds on the sidewalks.
We’ve been instituting small changes in the March operation, but the last three years have made it clear that any solution to the significant time overage would require a change to the March route. Our staff, Executive Board, and March Committee spent nearly a year considering options for new March routes and running those options by the many city agencies that are critical to running this event. We believe that the new route is the best option for a number of reasons, but most importantly:
It increases the time the March spends on avenues, with significantly wider roads and sidewalks;
Maintains the Stonewall National Monument as the centerpiece of the procession while adding the NYC AIDS Memorial to the route; and
Provides a vastly more efficient dispersal area for vehicles and marchers.
Disparities in the marching group sizes were also identified as a significant driver of time overages. We reviewed several years of data on how many individuals participate in each marching group, and found that nonprofits, which traditionally compose 65–75% of the registered groups, typically attract around 50–100 marchers, with the biggest organizations generally reaching 150–200. The largest marching groups are sponsors and businesses, with some attracting as many as 800 people or more. Ultimately, we determined that 200 marchers per group would be the most equitable. For 2018, that means about 40,000 marchers overall, based on our pre-event registration estimates.
THE RESISTANCE CONTINGENT
From an organizing perspective, Heritage of Pride believes that common messages within the March are best delivered when spread throughout the duration of the procession. For this reason, we do not generally group organizations into issue or identity based contingents. Having said that, we also recognize the sincerely held belief among some organizations unified in resisting the policies of the Trump administration that their message is best amplified together. We will be working with two of those organizations, Rise and Resist and ACT UP New York, to assemble a Resistance Contingent, made up of 10 activist organizations, within this year’s March.
THE ROLE OF POLICE AT PRIDE
Many of the demands were related to the role of the NYPD in the operation of the NYC Pride March, and as a marching group under the banner of GOAL, a fraternal organization of LGBTQIA+ law enforcement officers.
In New York City, NYPD has the ultimate responsibility for overseeing the permitting and operation of all marches and parades, and therefore makes the final determinations on how all events like ours are covered, monitored, and secured. At the same time, HOP has worked hard to forge a strong working relationship with the NYPD, a relationship that enables one of the world’s largest LGBTQIA+ events to be as successful as it is. Our contacts at NYPD are open to our suggestions, and we work together to review and improve our processes each and every year.
On June 5th at the LGBT Center, we invite the community to join Heritage of Pride, the Office of the Mayor, and the NYPD to learn more about the operation of the NYC Pride March.
While, as Pride organizers, we have now developed a strong relationship with the City and NYPD, we also recognize that our events only exist because our community fought back against city and police sanctioned violence and discrimination, in 1969 and beyond. With Stonewall 50 coming up next year, we think the conversation about a formal apology from the City and NYPD is worth having. We hope that same strong relationship can help move that conversation into a positive result.
Discussions around the issue of law enforcement groups marching in Pride events are not isolated to New York City. Every Pride organizer operates their events in different ways, based on local laws, social, political, and cultural considerations, and organizational structure. In this city, the NYC Pride March is a free speech platform for the diverse voices of our community and movement. That means:
That no restrictions are placed on the types of organizations that may register;
That any organization that registers and follows HOP’s rules and procedures for the NYC Pride March may participate; and
That no restrictions are placed on how marchers may legally express themselves.
Our membership voted at our May 12, 2018 General Membership Meeting to reaffirm these principles.
Aside from the free speech nature of the March, it is also important to note that GOAL had to sue in federal court to secure their right to wear their uniforms, and receive all the honors bestowed on other Department fraternal organizations that participate in parades and marches. That is a touchpoint in the movement, and Heritage of Pride holds that in a place of respect.
Pride is perhaps the most significant shared experience we have as LGBTQIA+ people. We remember our “first Prides” like they were yesterday, and we look forward to the memories and experiences each June provides with our friends and families. Here in NYC, we have the honor of being the birthplace of Pride, and the opportunity to show the awesome strength in numbers that our community holds. And in 2019, we will come together as New Yorkers, to welcome the world to our amazing city, and celebrate 50 years of Pride and Progress.
We hope you’ll join us.