Remembering The Stonewall Uprising

Last Updated 28.06.2020
4 min read

A lesson in history from TAIMI — the world’s first LGBTQI+ social network and dating app.

Photo by Diana Davies. Stonewall Inn.

Some of you may know this time in history as The Stonewall Riots, others as The Stonewall Rebellion, we like to use The Stonewall Uprising. The uprising that began in the morning hours on June 28, 1969, changed the course of history. Not just for New York, not just for gay men, not just for LGBT+ people, for us all.

The events unfolded when NYPD officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in the heart of Greenwich Village in NYC. The violent police approach lead to an uprising that lasted six days, it prompted clashes between the protesters and the police outside the bar on Christopher Street as well as in the nearby Christopher Park and the streets surrounding it.

A Catalyst for Gay Rights Movement

The Stonewall Uprising became a catalyst for the gay rights movement not only in the United States but all over the globe.

We often take the fact that LGBTQ+ rights have gone a long way since the 1960s. New York City, which is known to be one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities forbid solicitation of same-sex relations in the 1960s. Gay bars and clubs became a safe haven for LGBTQ+ people. These were the places where they can openly express themselves without the fear of being discriminated, harassed, violated or worse — killed.

Unfortunately not all was great, the New York State Liquor Authority penalized and even shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBTQ+ individuals, deeming a gathering of gay people “disorderly”. However, thanks to many great efforts by local activists these regulations were overturned in 1966. Although hard to image today, in 1966 engaging in “gay” behavior in public in New York City was still very much illegal, so police continued to raid gay bars and harass LGBTQ+ patrons as they saw fit.

A Local Institution

Stonewall Inn became an institution to the LGBTQ+ community of New York City. It opened its doors to the outcasts, drag queens that got pretty bad reception at other gay clubs. It was also a place of shelter for many runaway gay youth that couldn’t afford a home, and it allowed dancing!

Police raids on gay clubs were a fact of life in New York City, but since many were run by the Mafia, the corrupt cops were usually quick to tip them off in order to prevent getting a fine or worse their doors shut because of the illegal sale of alcohol.

This photograph appeared on the front page of The New York Daily News on Sunday, June 29, 1969, showing the “street kids” who were the first to fight the police outside the Stonewall Inn.

The Gay Rebellion

When New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of June 28 it caught everyone off guard. The police officers who had a warrant entered the club arresting 13 people including employees for violating New York State’s gender-appropriate clothing statute.

This was the boiling point. Angry patrons and neighborhood residents were fed up. Instead of leaving, they stayed behind becoming increasing angry with the police brutality that unfolded. At one point a scuffle broke out when a police officer hit a well-known lesbian Stormé DeLarverie over the head as he forced her into the police vehicle. DeLarverie fought as she bled and shouted to the crowd “Why don’t you guys do something?” This incited the crowd to take action, they began throwing whatever they could find — pennies, cobble stones, objects at the police.

Within minutes, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people unfolded. Among those that barricaded themselves in the Stonewall Inn was a Village Voice writer. Later, they published their account of the riots, which in turn sparked more protests in the area.

The Legacy

Although the Stonewall Inn Uprising did not start the gay rights movement, it certainly served a catalyst for LGBTQ+ activism in the United States. Numerous LGBTQ+ organizations take their roots after the Stonewall Inn Uprising. Among them are Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, GLAAD, and many more.

Photo by Diana Davies, Gay Liberation Front marches on Times Square, New York, 1970

The Stonewall Inn Uprising also led to the creation of America’s first gay pride parade. Thousands of people marched on the streets of Manhattan on the one-year anniversary of the riots. Chanting the parade’s official slogan: “Say it loud, gay is proud.”

In 2016 the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, surrounding streets and sidewalks in New York City were proclaimed a national monument in recognition of the area’s contribution to gay rights.

Remembering The Stonewall Uprising was originally published in Taimi on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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