MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sunday marks 51 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which helped spark the Gay Rights Movement.

Minnesota’s LGBTQ+ community typically celebrates with a huge parade in downtown Minneapolis, but this year was different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a plan involving a virtual parade and virtual events.

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But organizers canceled this year’s virtual events to support a different message in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis Sunday, declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Queer Lives Matter.” There was a feeling of joyous celebration throughout downtown streets. Minneapolis Public Schools teacher Mina Leierwood was on hand.

“We get a small, home-grown Pride parade this year, and that personally makes me happy,” Leierwood said.

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But this is also a protest, calling attention to real issues and their rallying cries, according to “Taking Back Pride” organizer DJ Hooker.

“We’re standing in solidarity with our Black and Queer friends and brothers, especially Black Trans lives, which are under attack, too,” Hooker said.

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Jae Yates, who is Black and Transgender, marched at the front of the crowd Sunday.

“I deserve rights,” Yates said. “I’m a citizen of this country.”

They say they reject performing gender on the traditional binary man-woman scale.

“You can believe that or not, but it is what it is,” Yates said. “I want to look however I want to look, and I want to feel, I want to feel like I am embodying my body.”

Leierwood says she’s amazed by the young people at the event, and the ones she teaches.

“It is about empowering the youth to be themselves and to self-expression. Speak out and don’t be afraid because we’re behind you, the older generation is behind you,” Leierwood said.

“Taking Back Pride” organizers tell WCCO that’s about taking it back from the corporate interests, and putting it in the hands of the people in attendance.

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According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 27 Transgender people were violently murdered last year in the United States. The American Medical Association has called violence against the Trans community an epidemic.

David Schuman