Palestine Is on the Mind at the NYC Dyke March

The Fogo Azul drumline pounded an intoxicatingly joyous heartbeat, cutting through the tension of  “Dykes Against Genocide,” the 32nd annual Dyke March in Manhattan on Saturday evening, June 29. In the days leading up to the march, the organizing committee published and subsequently retracted a statement on its social media regarding the safety of Jewish lesbians who were concerned about attending. However, several thousand participants — many exhibiting unwavering support for Palestine — joined the procession from Bryant Park to the Washington Square Park Fountain.

The Dyke March committee’s retracted statement expressed that antisemitism was not tolerated under any circumstances, before emphasizing the need to “center the dire plight” of Palestinians, acknowledging the pain felt among Jewish people following rising antisemitism, and “mourn[ing] the senseless loss of Jewish life” during and after Hamas’s October 7th attack. 

The statement drew intense responses from LGBTQ+ activism organizations such as Act Up NYC, which underscored that its march bloc would center Palestinian liberation, and the queer prison abolition organization Black & Pink, which canceled its contingent at the march entirely.

The organizing committee issued an accountability post shortly afterward, clarifying that the retracted statement hadn’t been published with a committee-wide vote. The committee did not immediately respond to Hyperallergic’s request for comment. The march went on as planned, beginning at 5pm outside the New York Public Library’s flagship building. 

At the march, Mattie, a co-leader for Act Up NYC’s march bloc, told Hyperallergic that the bloc “made the strong intention to show up, be loud, take space, and center Palestinian liberation”; to highlight its endorsement to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement; and to hammer in its message of “money for AIDS, not war.”

“Black trans organizers and Black dyke organizers have been at the front of creating our liberation movements,” Mattie said, speaking as an individual. They called upon participants to center and listen to organizers such as Qween Jean, who led the march in a hot pink dress and a Palestinian flag emblazoned with the Black Power fist and the words “Free Palestine.”

Throughout the march, Rivianna Hyatt and Michelle Blassou took turns carrying a paper mâché and recycled soda can sculpture of an olive tree above their heads. The pair told Hyperallergic that they had debated attending the march after reading the retracted statement from the committee, but opted to come out anyway to “bring their identity of being a dyke into support for Palestinian resistance.” 

Hyatt and Blassou said they had attended multiple Dyke Marches across the US and Canada and that the NYC iteration “is always the best,” but Hyatt expressed that they couldn’t understand why the committee published the statement and that it conflated anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

Amid the swaths of people en route to Washington Square Park, hundreds carried signs featuring statements along the lines of “Jewish Dykes for Palestine.” One marcher, a 28-year-old Brooklynite named Sadie who had the same text written on the backs of her thighs, expressed to Hyperallergic that “Jews are safe here.”

“There might not be a feeling of safety for Zionists here, and there shouldn’t be,” Sadie continued. “I don’t aim to make Zionists feel safe here, but I’m a Jew and I hope that Jews can feel safe here because genocide isn’t a Jewish value.”

Regarding the organizing committee’s conflicting messages, Sadie said that “two or three people from a committee publishing a statement without everyone being on board with it” isn’t a reason to cancel Dyke March. “It’s more symbolic for me to show up and to show solidarity [with Palestine] regardless of what the committee is saying than it would be for me to stay home,” she said. 

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