Police ‘beat, shoved and pepper-sprayed’ crowds at alternative New York Pride march

With the arch visible, police pack the streets outside Washington Square Park

The New York Police Department (NYPD) descended onto an alternative Pride protest Sunday afternoon (27 June), allegedly “beating, shoving and pepper-spraying” those present.

As Reclaim Pride Coalition’s third annual Queer Liberation March & Rally, touted as a police-free alternative to Pride, drew to a close, police presence quickly swelled at Washington Square Park.

There were multiple claims from members of the press and public that police officers used pepper spray on people at the park, where  a “few thousand” gathered, between 6 and 8pm.

Witnesses described a tense atmosphere in the afternoon as uniformed officers, some wielding riot gear or mounting bicycles, allegedly shoved a detached barricade into a civilian.

As Pride-goers voiced their concerns, NYPD officers reportedly retaliated by lining the perimeter roadways as a “sea of cops” swept over the park.

Police reportedly stopped pedestrians from crossing the road as they began circling in on the park into the evening.

Attendees, waving fans and holding one another, continued to dance and frolic. One couple even got engaged in the fountain as shirtless people cheered, jumped high and waved rainbow flags.

At least seven people were arrested for allegedly attempting to pass through a police barricade, biting, slapping and throwing bottles at officers, the force’s spokesperson told ABC.

Four were arrested for disorderly conduct and three for assaulting officers. No serious injuries were reported by the authorities.

With a midnight curfew looming, police appeared to call in the Strategic Response Group, a task force that squashes civil unrest previously criticised for its heavy-handed, if not outright violent approach.

Pride-goers were funnelled away from nearby streets such as Christopher Street Pier and into the park.

“Hundreds” of officers reportedly clogged the park, Business Insider’s Meredith Vash reported. Police officials shrugged off the scuffle –  it was “nothing”, they said – even as video footage showed countless officers buttressing the streets on their bikes.

One witness claimed a person was “shoved, beaten, and pepper-sprayed while attempting to protect another person with an injury” as the clattering of SRG bikes and batons filled up Washington Square Park North and 5th.

Many reported a sense of déjà-vu considering near-identical scenes were witnessed last year when the department’s officers clashed with Queer Liberation March-goers.

Sunday’s incident quickly came to capture the longstanding grievances held by LGBT+ activists towards the NYPD, which led NYC Pride organisers to take steps to reduce the presence of law enforcement at its events.

As a result, last weekend’s Pride parade was the first to ban police and corrections officers from the march, while department officers were asked to stay about a block away from all in-person events.