How The Rainbow Flag Ceremony At Stonewall Became A Call To Action: “This Flag Was Born In A Struggle”

"We should insist on flying the rainbow flag on every flagpole we can," said organizer Michael Petrelis.

This week the National Park Service suddenly withdrew its support for a ceremony to raise the rainbow flag at the Stonewall National Monument.

Scheduled for noon today, the event would have marked the first time the rainbow flag would have flown over federally funded land—and the first time the NPS would be responsible for its care. But the NPS abdicated responsibility for maintaining the flagpole and turned it over to the City of New York. And Park Service staff scheduled to speak at the ceremony canceled.

But that didn’t stop the ceremony—or stop LGBT activists from using it as a rallying cry.

“I don’t come to a lot of activities honoring flags. This flag is different,” veteran activist Leslie Cagan told the crowd. “This flag was born in a struggle. This struggle, like so many others in this country, is far from over.” Cagan reminded the audience that “we have to commit ourselves to the history we have yet to make.”

Kiara St. James, executive director of the New York Trans Advocacy Group, said it wasn’t enough to attend an event like this and then going home to gripe on Facebook. “It is time for a remix of Occupy Wall Street,” she insisted.

St. James also led the crowd in a chant of “It is our duty to fight, it is our duty to win.”

ACT UP’s Michael Petrelis, who organized the flag-raising, told NewNowNext every gay person should ask to fly the Pride flag on government property. “Whether it’s City Hall, a federal building or in a park, we need to keep requesting flying the rainbow flag,” he said. “Maybe for a day, maybe permanently because we are part of America. We pay taxes subsidizing this flag staff. When our gay dollars are paying for these pieces of government property we should insist on flying the rainbow flag on every flagpole we can.”

🏳️‍🌈flying high at Stonewall. #nationalcomingoutday #stonewall

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In his speech to the crowd, Petrelis referenced LGBT trailblazers Larry Kramer, Marsha P. Johnson, Edie Windsor, and “others like you,” adding, “It’s going to take you to inspire more handfuls of people to change the world.”

The group then made the short walk to the other end of Christopher Street Park to view the rainbow flag, which now joins the Stars and Stripes and the New York Parks and Recreation flag atop the mast. The short ceremony ended with the crowd singing “Over the Rainbow” and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.”
 

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