Several people were arrested on Sunday evening at New York’s Washington Square Park during Pride celebrations in the area, as tensions between Pride-goers and the police suddenly boiled over.
Twitter users described NYPD officers as having used pepper spray on Pride attendees who were in the Greenwich Village park early on Sunday evening after those celebrating became angry with how the police responded to a break in the metal barricades surrounding the popular park.
Social media users described officers as shoving one of the broken barricades into a woman who was on the other side.
The force that was used was seemingly enough to anger Pride participants who were already wary of any police presence following a confrontation in the same park, at the same event last year.
Riot police were then seen surrounding the area donned in riot gear including shields, helmets and visors. Some police officers had their batons drawn at the ready for any kind of encounter.
Around the parks perimeter, officers formed a chain on police bikes before scores of them flooded the park.
There were at least three confirmed arrests with fears that things might flare up once again, after dark.
At least three people have been arrested in Washington Square Park during Pride celebrations on Sunday afternoon. Police were pictured dressed in riot gear together with helmets, shields and batons drawn
Officers dressed in riot gear and police bikers were seen lining the perimeter streets of the park
Officers appeared to be lining up in preparation for a standoff with Pride-goers
As thousands gathered inside the park, police officers lined up at the park’s exterior
Following a clash with police officers, people remained in the park until sundown
A fire-eater lit up the sky after a tense standoff with police earlier on Sunday evening
People gather in Washington Square Park for the 3rd annual Queer Liberation March in New York on Sunday. Several people were later arrested following the Pride celebrations
People arrive to Washington Square park as they take part in the Queer Liberation March
Dozens of police vans and uniformed officers swarmed the area in preparation for any trouble
‘There’s talk of mace happening right now at Washington Square Park. There is a sea of cops here,’ Twitter user Christine Chung wrote early on Sunday evening.
‘I am currently watching NYPD charge Washington Square Park with riot gear (helmets, pepper spray, batons) … potentially to break up pride celebrations? It certainly looks like they are confronting people celebrating pride from my vantage point,’ wrote Meredith Cash.
‘The NYPD has attacked the Queer Liberation March, used pepper spray, and arrested at least one person. Now they’re out in force, and riot gear, threatening more arrests. This is why it’s no cops at Pride.
When DailyMail.com asked for a comment from the NYPD over the use of pepper spray, an officer said that ‘no official details had yet been relayed from the field’.
At least one person could be heard chanting through a megaphone: ‘The NYPD is not welcome at Pride!’ to encouraging cheers of those gathered nearby.
One Twitter user attempted to explain how the melee broke out with Pride-goers who were congregating close to the iconic arch and a metal barricade was moved to create more space for those inside the park.
Officers stand guard after angry scenes earlier on Sunday evening between cops and Pride attendees
The party appeared to carry on despite a heated confrontation with police
Things appeared to calm down as night fell with most police remaining outside the park
Spirits remained high well into Sunday evening as people celebrated Pride
Revelers took some time to cool off in the park’s central fountain in hot New York temperatures
Officers remained on guard as the celebrations continued into the evening
A fire eater can be seen drawing the attention of Pride goers situated around the fountain
It’s believed an altercation occurred after a barricade was shoved into a woman
Earlier in the day the park was full of people celebrating pride in blazing hot temperatures
Cops already inside the pen started forcefully shoving it back and a woman became agitated and shoved it back at the officers.
In return, another officer then pushed the metal barricade back in a woman.
Parkgoers then ran over to the barriers to yell at police for not being more careful and hurting a woman. It’s at this point the NYPD is said to have deployed pepper spray.
Over the last month the park has often been the scene of anti-social behavior with everything from illegal boxing matches, to raves and drug taking occurring within the vicinity, although the majority of this has occurred after nightfall, often with police attempting to enforce a curfew.
LTBTQ Pride Parade marchers are seen gathering at Washington Square Park in New York City before police appeared to break up the event
Tensions were already high between the NYPD and those celebrating Pride after organizers of New York City’s event decided to ban LGBTQ police officers from marching in uniform.
For those looking to march for LGBTQ rights, the Reclaim Pride Coalition held its third Queer Liberation March from Bryant Park to Stonewall National Monument and Washington Square Park.
The liberation event does not allow police or corporate participation.
The march commemorates the 1969 Stonewall uprising, sparked by a police raid on a gay bar and tensions between law enforcement and some parts of the LGBTQ community still exist, a half century later. The ban is set to last until at least 2025.
Twitter users were in disbelief at what was happening in the park during what was supposed to be a celebratory event
Last year, the NYPD attacked marchers or partiers twice during Pride weekend.
The role police officers should play in the annual parade has been debated for years, but it took on new heat amid a national reckoning around police brutality.
New York City’s streets a year ago were awash in protests over the death of George Floyd and clashes between demonstrators and officers.
‘Folks still have challenging and traumatic and many times horrific relationships with law enforcement,’ said John Blasco, a parade regular. ‘If you’re an officer … of course you should be able to celebrate and express your pride, but you don’t need to do it in a uniform that has perpetuated violence against many of the people who are trying to celebrate their pride that day.’
For others, presence of LGBTQ police marchers is an expression of hard-fought diversity and inclusion that should be celebrated, a hallmark of how integral LGBTQ people are in the fabric of American life.
‘Why should I have to hide a part of me,’ asked Ana Arboleda, a sergeant with the NYPD who has marched in the parade several times and is the vice-president of the Gay Officers Action League. ‘Why should I have to take off (the uniform) as if I´m ashamed?’
The ban is not the first for a Pride march; Toronto Pride hasn’t allowed uniformed police since 2017, and Vancouver Pride started limiting their role then as well, while Capital Pride Alliance started doing so in 2018. Denver PrideFest isn’t allowing law enforcement to take part in its virtual event this year, and neither is the Capitol Hill Pride Festival, which takes place in Seattle but is separate from Seattle Pride.
In New York City, an alternative to the Heritage of Pride event called the Queer Liberation March, organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition as a rebuttal to what they consider a too-corporate, too-comfortable main parade, has never allowed a police presence since its 2019 inception.
Members of the Gay Officers Action League of the New York police department are cheered during the gay pride march in 2013 in New York. This year, organizers of New York City’s event banned LGBTQ police officers from marching in future parades while wearing their uniforms
Members of the New York City Police Department carry flags, including one with the rainbow colors, during New York’s Gay Pride Parade, pictured eight years ago in 2013
NYPD police officers march along Fifth Avenue during the gay pride parade in 2014
A police officer applauds as parade-goers shout and wave flags during the New York City Pride in 2016
An NYPD officer grabs a youth by the hair as another officer clubs a young man during a confrontation in Greenwich Village after a Gay Power march in New York in August of 1970