Giving thanks … the Stonewall Riots Remembered

 

chicken_horrorToday is the Canadian Thanksgiving, and despite the terrible things that are going on in the world we have a lot for which to be thankful. Those Canadians who are fortunate to have families and other loved ones will celebrate the holidays and perhaps try to help those on the outside looking in. In Canada we are blessed to have laws that protect minorities, for the most part, and gays and lesbians are allowed to marry each other with all the responsibilities this entails.  

However, on the flip side there’s still hate and violence against minorities today, including those individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

  In acknowledgment of what the world was like in the “good old days” when gays were beaten and killed, I thought I would post this article from civil rights.org about the Stonewall Riots which happened over 40 years ago when the gay rights movement was born. We are reminded every day that things have not changed much. We haven’t come that far baby! A timely reminder is Leslie’s   review of a book by Judy Shepard, The Meaning of Matthew, about the murder of her son Matthew whose only “crime” was being gay. The review is on the site today and I would urge you to read it.

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 Stonewall Riots: The Beginning of the LGBT Movement

June 22, 2009 – Posted by Dayo Adiatu

Stonewall Inn in 1969.

Credit: Diana Davies

 This Sunday, June 28, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the event largely regarded as a catalyst for the LGBT movement for civil rights in the United States.

  At the time, there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down. 

 In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out.  As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting “gay power.”

  Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd.  For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.

In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York’s LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word “gay” in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay.  On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.

The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

2 comments

  • Leslie
    It’s always great to get additional background on “historical” events.

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    Whatever was the background to the June 28th riots it certainly was the catalyst to the start of the gay movement in the US. Hopefully things will continue to improve for all minorities, including gays. The Matthew Shepard bill will hopefully also tilt the scales in the direction of treating minorities the same way that the majority is treated. Note I said “hopefully” a couple of times!!

    Reply
  • Here’s a little bit of history that may be of interest to the folks here…
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    As you note, Wave, there weren’t many gay bars in NYC in the 60s. The ones that were there weren’t owned and run by gay people, but rather, by the mob. They served over-priced, watered down drinks and didn’t meet basic fire, safety or hygiene codes. Apparently some of them didn’t even have a bathroom, which I find unbelievable. The “plus” side was that because they were run by the mob, they took care of paying off the police, which meant that the actual number of raids was minimized. In addition, many bars had an “early warning system” if a raid was pending, so that patrons could get out and avoid being arrested.
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    Just like today, different bars catered to different clienteles. Stonewall had a reputation for attracting a “flamboyant” crowd — cross dressers, transvestites, transgender, etc.
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    From what I have read, it is not entirely clear what precipitated the events on June 28. There is some speculation that the regular payoff hadn’t been made, in hopes that a raid would occur and the place would get shut down. Another theory is that the raid was planned, but the police showed up earlier than expected, thus circumventing the early warning system. I think what was not expected was that the Stonewall patrons would fight back. Reading between the lines of the various news reports I have looked at, there was the thought that “tough” guys at a leather bar would be aggressive; they expected the “fairies” at Stonewall to be more docile, which is partly why Stonewall was targeted.
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    Obviously, they were wrong and the rest, as they say, is history.
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    L

    Reply

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