NEW YORK (AP) — Five decades of LGBTQ pride was celebrated Sunday as crowds gathered outside New York's historic Stonewall Inn to mark the 50th anniversary of the police raid that sparked the modern-day gay rights movement, as other cities throughout the country planned massive parades.
More than 2,000 people gathered Sunday morning outside the bar where patrons resisted a police raid in 1969 to kick off the counter-march prior to the larger parade slated to start later in the day.
The organizers of the Queer Liberation March said the larger Pride parade has become too commercialized and heavily policed.
"What's important to remember is that this is a protest against the monetization of the Pride parade, against the police brutality of our community, against the poor treatment of sections of our community, of black and brown folk, of immigrants," said Jake Seller, a 24-year-old Indiana native who now lives in Brooklyn and worked as one of the march's volunteers.
Protesters carried anti-Trump and queer liberation signs, chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!"
"We march for the liberation of our community so they can live and celebrate their identity. So they can reclaim it. This will always remain a protest, not an advertisement," Seller said.
Other attendees focused on the progress that's been made within the LGBTQ community over the last few decades.
"We've come so far in the past 20 years," said 55-year-old Gary Piper, who came from Kansas to celebrate Pride with his partner. "I remember friends who would be snatched off the streets in Texas for dressing in drag. They'd have to worry about being persecuted for their identity."
"But now we're so much more accepted. I'm not saying we don't have ways to go, but let's celebrate how far we've come," he said, adding that he also planned to attend the parade later in the day.
Police presence was high at the march, with several officers posted at every corner.
The larger Pride parade will have 677 contingents, including community groups, major corporations and cast members from FX's "Pose." Organizers said at least 150,000 people are expected to march, with hundreds of thousands more lining the streets to watch.
The Pride march concludes a month of Stonewall commemorations in New York that included rallies, parties, film showings and a human rights conference. The celebration coincides with WorldPride, an international LGBTQ event that started in Rome in 2000 and was held in New York this past week.
Other Pride events will take place Sunday around the U.S. and the world.
In San Francisco, a contingent of Google employees petitioned the Pride parade's board of directors to revoke Google's sponsorship over what they called harassment and hate speech directed at LGBTQ people on YouTube and other Google platforms.
San Francisco Pride declined to revoke Google's sponsorship or remove the company from the parade, but Pride officials said the Google critics could protest the company's policies as part of the parade's "Resistance Contingent."
In Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, the city's first openly gay mayor, will be one of seven grand marshals at the parade.
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Find complete AP Stonewall anniversary coverage here: https://apnews.com/Stonewallat50