Activists Drop Banners for Gaza at NYC AIDS Memorial

Ahead of the grand opening of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, activists with ACT UP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) dropped two banners at the New York City AIDS Memorial in Greenwich Village, calling on President Biden to stop funding Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza.

The action took place early this morning, June 28, in advance of Biden’s visit to the Lower Manhattan neighborhood, where he and other public officials will attend the inauguration of the new visitor center. A collaboration between Pride Live and the National Park Service (NPS), the center has been in the works for six years following President Obama’s 2016 designation of a national monument at the site of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. Previously an empty storefront, the new visitor center at 51 Christopher Street will be the first LGBTQIA+ visitor center in the National Park System.

Before the president’s arrival, activists hung two white banners from the triangular AIDS Memorial situated at St. Vincent’s Triangle around 5am. The fabric signs displayed black, red, and pink text reading “Queers to Biden: Stop Arming Israel” and “From NYC to Gaza / Stonewall was an Intifada,” referring to the Arabic word for “shaking off” that has historically been used to describe Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation. The latter sign was accompanied by a graphic of manicured hands pulling back a brick in a slingshot — a reference to the legendary first brick that was hurled at police officers outside of the Stonewall Inn during the historic uprising.

“Fifty-five years ago today, our LGBTQ ancestors made history by throwing the first bricks in the uprising that would kick off the gay liberation movement at the Stonewall Inn,” JVP and ACT UP said in a collective text posted on Instagram.

“While President Biden’s speech today erases this radical history, protestors sought to reclaim Stonewall’s legacy as a rebellion against the state violence and police brutality that LGBTQ+ folks were facing.”

In addition to the banners, activists wheat-pasted posters with pink watermelon triangles inspired by Gran Fury’s signature SILENCE = DEATH signage and bricks encased in the same fisherman’s netting pattern featured on keffiyehs, alluding to the overlap between the Palestinian liberation movement and LGBTQ+ rights movement. There were also new versions of Gran Fury’s “AIDSGATE” (1987) poster that replaced Ronald Reagan’s image with Biden’s, calling on the president to take action on Israel’s destruction of Gaza by ceasing shipments of American weapons.

Hyperallergic has reached out to the NYC AIDS Memorial and the Stonewall National Monument for comment.

Decrying Israeli “pinkwashing,” a term describing Israel’s alleged use of LGBTQ+ rights to distract from its military’s human rights violations, longtime ACT UP member BC Craig, who is also an activist with JVP, said in a statement that she refuses to allow her identity as a queer, Jewish person be “weaponized to justify the genocide.”

“Our LGBTQ+ siblings in Gaza have no more refuge from Israeli bombs than any other Palestinians,” Craig said.

Since Hamas’s October attack, Israel’s barrage of airstrikes and multi-tiered siege on Gaza have killed upwards of 37,396 Palestinians and injured over 85,523, according to the latest United Nations report. Tens of thousands more are missing, expected to be buried under rubble from collapsed infrastructure.

“Stonewall was about kicking the cops out of our lives,” said Miss Major, a veteran trans activist who participated in the 1969 Stonewall riots, in a public statement, criticizing the president’s support of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza.

“The girls and guys will keep on fighting, chanting, marching til every damn person is free, including Palestinians.”

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