By Peter Szekely

For the second consecutive year, the lingering pandemic will consign New York’s annual Pride march to the virtual world on Sunday, but its alter-ego, the Queer Liberation March, will take its edgier message through the streets of Manhattan.

Despite a diminished coronavirus infection rate with nearly two-thirds of the United States at least partly vaccinated, organizers of the NYC Pride march said the improvements came too late to alter their plans for a televised and live-streamed performance.

“Because we will be broadcasting, we’ve been able to really highlight certain aspects of our community that you don’t normally get to see in a regular march here,” said Sue Doster, co-chair of Heritage of Pride, which puts on the march.

The group anticipates “something in the millions” of viewers to tune to the event showcasing LGBTQ+ life, which will be aired from a three-block stretch of Manhattan starting at noon (1600 GMT), she said.

Grand Marshals for the 51st Pride march include actor Wilson Cruz, activist Ceyenne Doroshow, attorneys Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, HIV prevention expert Demetre Daskalakis and trans model Aaron Rose Philip.

The march’s theme, billed as “the fight continues,” focuses on the “fight for equal and equitable rights for all members of the LGBTQIA family,” said Doster.

Meanwhile, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, whose parade began as a protest to the Pride march two years ago, hopes to draw up to 70,000 participants to march over 30 blocks, coalition co-founder Jay W. Walker said.

Last year’s Queer Liberation March, which drew a pandemic-reduced 50,000 people, was tied to the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, but this year it will stress more traditional goals, Walker said.

“This year it’s just a broad theme for queer liberation,” he said. “You know, it’s our standard: None of us are free until all of us are free.”

The parade begins after the Pride march and also will be live-streamed.

Both events commemorate the June 28, 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, when patrons fought back during a police raid. The defiant stand gave birth to the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Founders of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, whose parade path will take marchers past the Stonewall Inn, now a U.S. national monument, say Heritage of Pride strayed from its early mission by accepting corporate backing and allowing conspicuous police participation in its marches.

“We believe that what we’re doing is actually for the movement,” said Walker.

Heritage of Pride last month barred police officers in uniform from marching in its future parades because, Doster said, many of its Black, brown and trans members feel threatened by their presence.