One of the city’s oldest pride parades returned to Jackson Heights on Sunday after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Thousands of people lined the streets of 37th Street for the 30th Queens Multicultural Festival and Gay Pride Parade under a sky blue sky. Mayor Eric Adams marched along the route as a low-flying NYPD helicopter buzzed through the crowd, and a rainbow-decorated police cruiser reading “LGBTQIA+” led the way. .
But while the parade was well-stocked with politicians, including New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Comptroller Brad Lander smiling and hugging their way down the street, several prominent political groups boycotted the parade due to the appearance of the mayor. In a published letter by Lambda Independent Democrats, and signed by Stonewall Democrats of NYC, Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, and Equality New York, the groups denounced the mayor’s hiring of several administration officials who expressed or supported groups with anti- LGBTQ.
The letter quoted Fernando Cabrera, senior adviser to the mayor’s Office of Community and Religious Associations, who said the mayor had almost designated to head the Office of Community Mental Health, sparking widespread outrage over his views against gay marriage and alleged support for Uganda’s anti-gay policies.
“Mayor Adams has tested the boundaries of the LGBTQ community to see where he can push the envelope, including who he can afford to ignore for the sake of his own interests,” the letter said. “Mayor Adams’ only interests are his own and prioritizing the needs of law enforcement and enforcement institutions in the city at the expense of investments in education, mental health, community health and LGBTQ services.”
The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The City Council speaker also declined to comment at the parade when asked about Adams’ appearance, and a follow-up email went unanswered.
Established by now-former City Councilman Daniel Dromm in 1993, the parade has become one of the oldest LGBTQ celebrations in the city. The parade has become one of the most popular in the entire city. Past parades have drawn tens of thousands of spectators.
Some of the pride parade participants booed when the mayor appeared, including OK, 31, who lives in Ridgewood and uses the pronoun they. OK said Adam’s support for homeless raids disproportionately targets gay youth who they said are underresourced.
“I thought it was absolutely disgusting, no one invited him, and I was just really upset to see him at the start of the parade,” they said. “What has he done for us? Any.”
For others, this was their first pride parade and it was great. Dikoda Kelly, 22, was there with her mother and said they recently emigrated from Jamaica, where LGBTQ rights and being openly gay are rare.
“When I came here, my friends started educating me and I started educating her,” Kelly said, pointing to her mother. “It’s kind of a passing information thing. Ninety percent of my friends are LGBTQ, so I’m here, supported, that’s all.”
Marie Jose Bernard of Woodside said she brought her granddaughter to support the LGBTQ movement.
“We have to keep going. This is how we can make changes,” she said. “We have rights, we are all born free, so we have to step up and make sure people understand that.”
Throughout the parade, NYPD counterterrorism officers watched closely as elected officials used their platforms to speak out about violence against the LGBTQ community.
Speaking to the crowd about an hour after the parade began, Lander spoke about the need to fight for a free society, “where you can be who you are and love who you love.” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz has shined a light on hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, vowing to prosecute and jail offenders. Public defender Jumaane Williams also advocated for these victims from the black trans women community.
Additional reporting by Steve Smith