A peaceful demonstration on the streets of Midtown Atlanta on Sunday linked ongoing protests of racial injustice and police brutality to a landmark uprising for the gay rights movement.

A crowd of more than 100 people swelled to about 150 as they marched from Atlantic Station to the historic hub of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, in what became a block party to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The June 28, 1969, uprising followed a New York City police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club, and led to days of protests and clashes with police that galvanized the gay rights movement in the U.S.

» PHOTOS: The Beauty In Colors Rally and March

The Midtown rally was one of several demonstrations Sunday throughout metro Atlanta, including in Marietta, East Cobb and in downtown Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park.

Marchers said they embraced the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for police reform. Demonstrations have rippled across Atlanta and other U.S. cities since the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Several people who attended Sunday’s rally said the movements are part of the same struggle for life and liberty.

“It’s important to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters as they celebrate the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots,” said Gerald A. Griggs, an attorney and a vice president of the Atlanta NAACP. “Their struggle is our struggle.”

The Beauty In Colors Rally and march makes its way through Midtown on Sunday afternoon June 28, 2020. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Ben Gray for AJC

Demaris Bybee of Atlanta said people of color have played key roles in the movement for LGBTQ rights. She carried a sign that said “Black trans women fought for me!!”

“I really want to pay it forward,” Bybee said. “I absolutely think it’s time for white people to stand up.”

The group winded its way down Midtown streets holding signs and waving rainbow flags. On Peachtree Street, marchers chanted slogans that have become a common refrain in recent weeks: “Black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot!”

But the march also included chants like “trans lives matter,” “black queens matter” and “I love being gay.”

Dee Dee Tsegaye (from left), Andané Browne and Destiny Britt lead the Beauty In Colors Rally and march across the 17th Street bridge Sunday afternoon June 28, 2020. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Ben Gray for AJC

They paused outside the Woodruff Arts Center for speeches and a 51-second moment of silence, a second for each year since the Stonewall uprising.

Antonio Newell of Atlanta thanked the crowd for showing up.

“It means that you are advocating for change,” he said. “It means you are fighting for self-preservation.”

A truck with Pride flags drives past the beginning of the Beauty In Colors Rally and march Sunday afternoon June 28, 2020 in Midtown Atlanta to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Ben Gray for AJC

For the last several blocks, the group marched in silence, hands raised, to honor LGBTQ people who have lost their lives.

But when they reached the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, with its rainbow crosswalks, the march became a party, complete with a DJ.

Rashad ‘Boone of Atlanta came to the march with his husband, Gary Kirkland Jr. He danced with abandon in the crosswalk, drawing cheers from the crowd.

“I have seen our culture change,” he said. “I am so proud. I am so happy.”

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