Volume 79, Number 03 | June 24 - 30, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

The protesters circled the Washington Square fountain Friday night before marching out of the park and through the streets of the West Village.

‘Spirit of Stonewall’ lives on in protest over permits

By Jefferson Siegel

A group of 75 people marched through the West Village Friday night to protest a regulation requiring groups of 50 or more people to obtain a permit before gathering.

The “Parade Without A Permit” was organized by the Radical Homosexual Agenda, which organized a similar protest in 2007.

“Nothing’s changed, that’s part of the problem,” said Jessica Rechtschaffer, an R.H.A. member since the group’s founding in 2006. “It’s really a failure on the part of the city’s leadership to protect basic civil rights.”

Benjamin Shepard held the lead banner as the march proceeded through West Village streets filled with Friday night revelers.

“Forty years after Stonewall, we’re still out here,” he said. “If we don’t have freedom of assembly, we don’t have democracy.”

Toward the end of the hour-long protest, which saw the march proceed down the middle of several streets, a small number of police appeared. They walked alongside the march until it ended at the Christopher St. Pier. There were no arrests.

The regulation, first issued in 2006 with a cap of 30 participants, was modified to 50 after an outcry from activists and several city councilmembers. Many in the march criticized Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the first openly gay City Council speaker, for agreeing to the regulation.

As a result of the rule, originally intended to control the monthly Critical Mass bike ride, the 5 Boro Bike Club and several other parties filed a lawsuit challenging the regulation in Federal Court. There were four days of hearings last month. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has not yet ruled on the suit.

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