Vandalism or Activism? Sorting Out What Happened at Fire Island Pines Trailblazers Park

Artist Marc Christensen created this design used for the flag commemorating Richie Torres, removed by ACT UP.

The Trailblazers Park dedication ceremony was a much-anticipated event to launch Pride Month festivities in Fire Island Pines on Saturday, June 1. By Sunday morning the message and dialogue had been altered by ACT UP NY as one of the flags unveiled the day before was torn down. Act Up took it upon themselves to remove the flag the Trailblazers Task Force had placed to honor U.S. Congressman Richie Torres and erect another in memory of transgender right activist Cecilia Gentili in its place. Another flag was also raised which included the ACT UP logo as well as a watermelon, which has become a symbol of Palestinian support in protests that have recently been trending on college campuses and other forums across the country.


Act Up NY readily took credit for these actions on their website.


FIPPOA President Henry Robin and Trailblazers Task Force Co-Chair Doug Harris released a joint statement on Wednesday, June 6, which in part read:


“Many in the Pines considered ACT UP’s action an act of vandalism requiring police intervention. Some expressed alarm that it was a threatening gesture to the Jewish community. Others saw it as a legitimate act of activist theater, consistent with the principles that marked the work of many of the trailblazers being honored.”


U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, the first gay Afro-Latino member of Congress as well as a vocal defender of Israel, had some choice words of his own about the protest and the act of tearing down the flag which honored him, which he shared in a recent interview with The Advocate, published the same day as FIPPOA’s statement:


“I find it regrettable. The Fire Island Pines Property Association made a decision to honor trailblazers at Trailblazers Park. I was chosen to be among them. Even if you disagree with my view on issues like Israel, there’s no denying that I’m objectively a trailblazer.”


As Fire Island Pines and the LBGTQ+ community at large contends with this action, Fire Island & Great South Bay News and our partner-affiliates at Schneps Media consider this matter a developing situation, and will continue to examine it accordingly.