Gay Pride History – The Stonewall Inn
In the wee hours of June 28, 1969, the NYPD staged a raid at the Stonewall Inn, a mafia-run gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood.
The difference of this raid, as opposed to the countless others that took place at the Christopher Street establishment, is that this is the one that broke the camel’s back and inspired the bar’s patrons to fight back.
Now known as the Stonewall Riots (uprising) was a 5-day long protest became known as the spark that ignited the modern-day LGBTQ-rights movement.
The Stonewall Riots
In 1969, the solicitation of homosexual relations was an illegal act in NYC and virtually all other urban cities, Gay bars were places of refuge where gay men and lesbians and other individuals who were considered sexually suspect could socialize in relative safety from public harassment.
Many of the bars were, however, subject to regular police harassment and the Stonewall was no different.
The Stonewall was a well-known gathering place for young gay men, lesbians and transgender people to conjugate.
A dark, seedy, crowded bar, reportedly operation without a liquor license. 9 policemen entered the Stonewall Inn, arrested the employees for selling alcohol without a license, roughed up many of the patrons, cleared the bar, and -in accordance with the NY criminal statute that authorized the arrest of anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing-took several people into custody.
This was the 3rd such raid on Greenwich Village gay bars in a short period.
This time the people milling outside the bar did not retreat or scatter as they almost always had in the past. Their anger was apparent and vocal as they watched bar patrons being forced into a police van.
They began to jeer at the jostle the police and then threw bottles and bricks. Accustomed to more passive behavior, even from larger gay groups, the policemen called for reinforcements and barricaded themselves inside the bar while some 400 people rioted.
The police barricade was repeatedly breached, and the bar was set on fire.
Police reinforcements arrived in time to extinguish the flames, and they eventually dispersed the crowd. The riots waxed and waned for the next five days.
Many historians characterized the uprising as a spontaneous protest against the perpetual police harassment and social discrimination suffered by a variety of sexual minorities of the 1960’s.
There had been other protest by gay groups, The Stonewall incident was perhaps the first time that lesbians, gays and transgender people saw the value in uniting behind a common cause.
Occurring as it did in the context of the civil rights and feminist movements, the Stonewall riots became a galvanizing force.
THE 1ST GAY PRIDE PARADE
On November 2, 1969, Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy and Linda Rhodes proposed the first pride parade to be held in NYC by way of resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) meeting in Philadelphia.
The parade was to be taken place on the 1-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The first official Gay Pride Parade happened on June 28, 1970 and has since then grown into one of the largest celebrations of human rights, now celebrated in cities all around the world.
These events celebrate LGBTQ social and self-acceptance, legal rights and pride. The Gay Pride events also serve as an educational tool needed to better know the history of the community and the elders who helped shape it as all endured social and constitutional discriminations many of which have yet to be remedied.
What has happened since the Stonewall Riots?
The Stonewall Riots sparked a formation of scores of gay rights organizations including: Human Rights Campaign, OutRage!, GLAAD, PFLAG, QueerNation and 50 years of Gay Pride parades.
In 1999 the U.S. National Parks Service placed the Stonewall Inn on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2016, President Barrack Obama designated the site of the Stonewall uprising a national monument. The 7.7- acre monument includes the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks.
In 2019, shortly before the 50th Anniversary of the riots, NYC police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, issued an apology on behalf of the police department saying, “The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong – plain and simple.”
In 2019, New York City and the world celebrated the largest international Pride celebration in history, which I am happy to say I was a part of: Stonewall 50 – World Pride NYC 2019 with five (5) million attending Manhattan alone.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1st Gay Pride parade and due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic most events around the world have been cancelled including PRIDE. This doesn’t diminish this historical and important event but puts most in a place for reflection on how to continue with a new normal as we battle this virus.
Happy Gay Pride 2020!