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NYC Police Pepper Spray Peaceful LGBTQ Demonstrators

Pandemonium broke out at the Queer Liberation March Sunday afternoon in New York City as New York Police officers swarmed what was described as a peaceful demonstration on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The incident occurred near New York’s Washington Square Park amid supporters for the Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter movements.

The Gothamist reports two demonstrators were being arrested for graffiti when protesters attempted to intervene. Police officers reportedly responded using pepper spray on several in the crowd.

One witness told The Gothamist the mood was like an upbeat dance party prior to the arrival of the police.

“We were dancing right in front of the arch on 5th ave and out of nowhere, cops started storming into the crowd,” Mike Perles, a 29-year-old city employee, told The Gothamist. “They pushed everyone in front of them out of the way and onto the ground. They pushed a reporter who was taking photos down and started randomly pepper-spraying people.”

“I couldn’t see anyone instigating,” added Perles. “It seemed like they felt outnumbered after entering a huge group and panicked and started beating people up.”

Pippa Bianco, a volunteer for NourishNYC, described the scene before the police arrived as “totally peaceful.” She was picking up food for a volunteer food station when the police rushed into the crowd.

While helping demonstrators get water after they were pepper-sprayed, Bianco says she saw a police medic pouring water into the eyes of two other officers who were standing downwind of the pepper spray and accidentally got the irritant in their eyes.

“The arrests that apparently incited the clash were reportedly over graffiti,” wrote Teen Vogue politics editor Lucy Diavolo, who attended the march. “In the midst of the blockade, I heard someone try to start a ‘graffiti is art’ chant.”

Diavolo adds that she could identify herself in videos posted to Twitter. “I can see the cops going wild; in one video, an officer uses a nightstick to knock down someone already on their knees with their hands raised above their head.”

On Twitter, openly gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for a full investigation into clashes between protesters and police. Johnson called the use of pepper spray on the peaceful protesters “incredibly disturbing.”

In spite of the use of force by police, the organizers of the event said the vast majority of the march was a peaceful celebration attended by over 50,000 supporters.

“DO NOT let the NYPD ruin a gorgeous day like today, on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion,” wrote the group on Instagram. “The sun, the rain and the rainbow came out for us today! And we made history. Let’s carry this spirit forward! Let’s continue supporting our Black Queer and Trans Communities!”

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WOW! THANK YOU! An estimated 50K of you joined us on the streets today, plus over 373k views here on Facebook!! So much love to all of us for building an IRL and virtual community, standing for Black Lives and against police brutality through the 2nd annual #QueerLiberationMarch. As of now, we understand that there has been one arrest, as well as many more who experience violence at the hands of the police. Again, if you witnessed or experienced police violence, send photo/video documentation to: media@reclaimpridenyc.org Jail support is already in place and trying to make sure everyone arrested is released safely. AND ONE FINAL MESSAGE: DO NOT let the NYPD ruin a gorgeous day like today, on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion! THE SUN, THE RAIN AND THE RAINBOW came out for us today! AND WE MADE HISTORY! Let’s carry this spirit forward! Let’s continue supporting our Black Queer and Trans Communities! Let’s show up for each other, TOGETHER. Keep loving, keep chanting, keep dancing, keep living. HAPPY PRIDE! Videos/photos: @leandrojusten

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(source: The Gothamist, Teen Vogue, NY1)