WEST VILLAGE, Manhattan — It's an internationally recognized emblem of LGBTQ pride and strength, and now the rainbow flag officially flies over a federal property for the first time ever. However, there's an asterisk connected to that milestone, and that has sparked protest from people from a variety of sexual orientations.
On Wednesday, National Coming Out Day, community activists were scheduled to hold an official raising of the rainbow flag at the Stonewall Inn National Monument, a property owned and managed by the National Parks Service. The federal agency had worked for months with the community to plan the flag flying ceremony. It was an official event that set an historic precedent for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
"Up until Friday night," said Ken Kidd, organizer of Wednesday's event, "we were partnered with the National Parks Service to make this happen. Then," he continued, "an article appeared in Newsweek magazine about this particular rainbow flag raising above a national monument."
"And the word that I got from a National Park Service official today," Kidd told PIX11 News on Wednesday, "was that someone in D.C. had a conniption fit and tried to figure out ways to get out of it."
At the flag raising ceremony, the Parks Service's top official in New York was present. However, he did not directly participate in the event, in contrast to what organizers said had originally been planned.
Another major change was spelled out by one of the top officials at the New York City Parks Department. "The flags that flew on the flagpole" in the Stonewall Inn National Monument had been "under the jurisdiction of the [National] Parks Service," said Sam Biederman, assistant parks commissioner for communications.
"That was shifted over the weekend," Biederman continued. "Now they're under the jurisdiction of the city."
It was a switch that activists in this community, as well as organizers of the event described as last minute.
However, said Joshua Laird, commissioner of the national parks of New York Harbor, support for the LGBTQ community by the Parks Service is strong.
"Our rangers are here," Laird told PIX11 News, "our [trademark] arrowhead is on the property."
However, when asked to clarify that the flagpole and rainbow flag were no longer in Parks Service jurisdiction, Laird answered, "It was never our flagpole."
That parsing of who owns what brought out protesters. Many of the participants in the ceremony carried signs that specifically criticized President Donald Trump and senior cabinet members of the administration that operates the Stonewall National Monument.
"Even at this joyous, milestone event," said Elissa Stein, as she held an anti-Trump protest sign, "we're not going to sit down, and we're not going to let [the Parks Service's changes] be okay."