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Pride Was A Riot: The Origins of the Pride Parade

The second annual Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day parade

Celebrating the second annual Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, marchers cross 34th Street in New York, June 27, 1971. The march, moving from Greenwich Village up Sixth Avenue, will end with a rally in Central Park. More than 3,000 people participate in the parade marking the end of "Gay Pride Week' in New York City.

(Photo: Associated Press)

The first pride march in New York City took place on June 28th, 1970, a year after the Stonewall Uprising. It was called "the Christopher Street Liberation Day March," named after the street on which the Stonewall Inn is located. To find out how the march came about, I tracked down Fred Sergeant, who helped organize the event. He says the idea was to make a statement because at the time the nation's largest LGBT rights rally in Philadephia was too straight laced. He says it was a polite picket that required women to wear dresses and men to wear suits and ties. 
"We thought that was just too confusing. Often when you saw people walking on the picket line it was a male and female walking, just so that it would be less upsetting to straight people." 
Sergeant says he and his fellow activists wanted to rid themselves of those constraints.
"There was no dress code, that was that was laid out in the proposal. People were to come as they were." 
And thanks to strong outreach efforts, came they did.
"I remember after marching a number of blocks getting up on a telephone pole stanchion and looking back and just seeing what seemed like a mile of people behind me. It was quite beyond my expectations." 
Today's march is also quite beyond Sergeant's expectations, but not necessarily in a good way.
"The march was intended to be a commemorative march, a demonstration, and it was to have full public participation. That's not happening so much now. Now the march has given over to corporate sections and there are barricades everywhere. Now it's not a demonstration." 
That said, Sergeant remains proud of what he and his co-organizers accomplished. You can hear more about the first march in our documentary Stonewall 50 Sunday morning at 6 on 90.7 FM or on-line.