by Barbara Nevins Taylor
The NYPD hugged the 2016 Gay Pride Parade with a heavy blanket of security and cordoned off streets to make sure it could control and watch pedestrian movement. Starting on Saturday afternoon police began manning barricades along the parade route from 36th Street and 5th Avenue to Christopher Street and the West Side Highway.
Marchers and onlookers moved easily in and out of sectioned-off areas and seemed to maintain a relaxed relationship with the police. This year’s Gay Pride Parade seemed more subdued than any I have seen in the past 32 years.
The floats and the formal parade featured grand marshals Syrian refugee Sabhi Nahas, activist Cecilia Chung and 15-year-old reality TV star Jazz Jennings. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane joined the marchers. At a pre-parade party, he said, “When we talk about New York values, our values include inclusion, tolerance, diversity. That’s what we believe in. That’s what we celebrate today.”
All along the parade route, couples and groups of young people stood shoulder-to-shoulder to catch a glimpse of the floats. And the spirit of the parade spilled over into the tightly-controlled streets where onlookers found comfort and celebrated a sense of public solidarity.
22-year-old Brendan came to the Village with three other young men from New Jersey. He said, “In light of Orlando and hate crimes against the LGBT community, to see so many people support gay rights is really important.”
Many gravitated to Sheridan Square near The Stonewall Inn, a symbol of gay rights that President Obama declared a national landmark a few days before the parade. Police barricades kept most people back from the building and out of the park in front of it.
A group of young women stood near Sheridan Square enjoying each other’s company. 23-year Denari, from Hempstead, Long Island told us, “Pride Day means being able to be proud of who you are and be free walking down the street. It’s nice to be visible and not be worried.”
Her friend, 23-year old Melissa from Brooklyn, seemed to speak for many when she said, “It’s great to be visible and queer and have fun and remember our roots and why we are doing this, especially in the wake of Orlando.”