The National Park Service (NPS) has abruptly withdrawn from an event to be held today at the Stonewall National Monument to raise a rainbow flag, a dedication that was to be the first time the symbol was to fly over federally funded land, and the first time the NPS would be responsible for its care.
The Stonewall Inn, a bar located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, was the site of the June 28, 1969, protests that are credited with sparking the modern LGBT rights movement. Former President Barack Obama designated the bar a national monument on June 24, 2016.
“Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights,” said Obama, who had recognized June as Pride Month for eight years.
Ken Kidd, a long-time New York City activist who helped organize Wednesday’s dedication ceremony, said he was surprised the flag project got approval under the current Trump administration.
Kidd’s suspicions were fully realized this morning when the Trump administration got wind of the event and had National Park Service under Secretary Ryan Zinke pull its representative from the event. The administration also worked to certify that “the flagpole adjacent to Christopher Park was not technically on federal land so that no rainbow flag would be flying on US government property.”
According to NYC’s Gay City News:
The National Park Service’s Barbara Applebaum, who arranged the permit for the event, dropped out as a speaker at the ceremony — her office citing a schedule conflict — and organizers of the event said in a release that the Park Service dropped its sponsorship of the event for which it had issued the permit to veteran gay activist Michael Petrelis.
Ann Northrop, co-host of Gay USA, who will preside over the dedication, said, “This is an unbelievably petty, sleazy, transparent bit of cruelty by the Trump administration. Evidently, we are so filthy to them and their right-wing supporters that they can’t even be associated with a few yards of rainbow fabric.”
Mindy Anderson, chief of communications for National Parks of New York Harbor, told Gay City News that in the course of issuing a permit for this event, the Park Service learned that “the flagpole is not on federal property. It’s a separate monument to the first person killed in the Civil War. It has never been part of the Stonewall National Monument, although it is located there. The flagpole is not managed by the Park Service. We gifted the flag to New York City Parks,” which continues to administer Christopher Park with the Park Service.
“We always knew that the only area that the Park Service managed was the area within the fence line,” Anderson claimed. “The location of the flagpole is not on federal land. In good faith, because of working with the community, we raised the Rainbow Flag. So with our strong partnership with NYC Parks, we gifted the flag to them so they could continue to fly it.”
Gay City News adds:
Maps of the monument, including those provided to Petrelis, do include the flagpole. And whatever other status it may have, it sits within the designated monument area — though not on federal land, the Park Service is now saying. On the Park Service website, the page that had the map for the Stonewall National Monument has been taken down.
Kidd said, “What we had planned with great people from the National Park Service was a lovely, small-town all-American celebration of our rightful place as citizens and of Stonewall’s rightful place in the struggle for equality in the USA. Our plans are to continue with that celebration.”