Saturday’s Queer March Ramsey calls for social and political change while building community
The first Queer Liberation rally and march, led by Nick Haas, Saturday, June 27, 2021, Ramsey, New Jersey. (Photo/Julian Leshay)
Over 60 New Jersey residents attended Saturday’s Queer March Ramsey, in Bergen County. The festive environment was described as “validating and liberating” for younger members of the queer community in and around Ramsey, New Jersey. There were drag performances, spoken word poetry, music, and encouraging chants that celebrated queerness and queer lived experiences of all kinds.
No Ramsey elected officials were in attendance, making it clear where they stand with regards to the struggle of the local queer community. New Jersey General Assembly candidate Karlito Almeda was there to show their support.
Ramsey, has a problematic past when it comes to the queer community, refusing to even fly the Pride flag at their local government buildings. Queer March Ramsey organizer Nicholas Haas explained that the lack of support from the town’s elected officials is “very disappointing and sends a message to queer people living in Ramsey that the mayor would rather protect their political reputation than stand up for the community.”
Haas explained that Saturday’s Queer March Ramsey was organized after attending his town’s disappointing Pride event earlier this month. As a prominent queer activist and founder of Ramsey Alliance for Social Equity, Haas hoped he would be able to speak at Ramsey Pride.
According to Haas, “As the [Ramsey Pride] event drew closer, it started to become clearer I wouldn’t be able to speak. I was disappointed that two of the speakers were police officers, which I think is inconsistent with the history of Pride, which stems from the Stonewall Riots and Compton Cafe Riots.” Pride originated from anti-police riots in response to targeting, harassment, and disproportionate arrests of queer people.
Ramsey Pride’s collaboration with police “made the most vulnerable members of the community feel at-risk,” like unodcumented immigrants, Black folks, and sex workers who are most likely to be targeted by police presence. When organizing this event, Haas explained that the Ramsey Police Department was combative, attempting to funnel the March to an inconvenient route and confine the March to an unreasonably early start time. Luckily, the March was left mostly unbothered by Ramsey PD.
Queer March Ramsey was launched as an alternative to Pride, an event that has become increasingly collaborative with police forces and transnational corporations. At Queer March Ramsey, multiple LGBTQ organizations tabled and passed out information. Over $100 was raised for Hackensack River Mutual Aid, a non-hierarchical organization that addresses social failures in New Jersey by uplifting marginalized voices and building solitary.
As expected in Ramsey, there were a few counter-protesters and agitators who hurled homophobic slurs at those taking part in the March. These counter-protesters were far outnumbered and their hateful message was drowned out by the chants of the Marchers. A bagel was thrown at Marchers from a passing pickup truck but luckily no one was harmed.
The turnout and amount of money raised may seem insignificant, but for a majority-white town and a mayoral administration that has refused to fly the Pride Flag, Saturday’s Queer March Ramsey represents an incredibly important step in changing the cultural landscape in Bergen County and New Jersey. Saturday’s March was about a community in our state. When people know that someone in their community has been oppressed, threatened, or feels unsafe, it then becomes the responsibility of the community to stand up.
In addition to celebrating the bravery of those who attended Queer March Ramsey, we should turn our attention to those who sat on the sidelines. We should not tolerate public servants who serve their own beliefs and needs rather than the needs of their community. How about public servants who think that they can’t be held accountable? Do we not all deserve the same opportunities and treatment in our communities?
Editor's Note: James is an aspiring journalist and media relations professional for non-profit organizations. He is currently completing his master’s degree in communication from Baylor University.