This weekend marks the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when a police raid on a gay bar in New York City turned into a violent confrontation as patrons decided that they weren’t going to take it any more – and fought back
In the wee hours of 28 June 1969, the New York Police Department (NYPD) raided the the Stonewall Inn, an ‘underground’ gay bar in the city’s Greenwich Village district.
Such raids were common not only in New York in those days, they were standard practice in cities throughout the United States – and around the world.
Policemen would storm into a bar, crack a few heads with their billyclubs, drag a few drag queens off to jail, and that was that.
Homosexuality was against the law, and the victims were unlikely to file charges, let alone fight back. They were in legal limbo. No one was about to stick up for them.
So the police could act with complete and total impunity.
But on that night, the patrons of that ‘underground’ gay bar decided that enough was enough. They weren’t going to take it anymore. Tired of the constant harassment at the hands of NYPD, they fought back.
There was further violence the following night and a few nights later. And folks in Greenwich Village, which was home to a large gay and lesbian community, began to organize.
First Gay Pride March
On the first anniversary of what has come to be known as the Stonewall Riots, the first Gay Pride March was organized by the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee to commemorate the riots.
The following year there was a Gay Pride March in Chicago. A year after that, a Gay Pride March took place in San Francisco. And now, 45 years later, Gay Pride Parades are held all over the world.
Did those brave gay men and lesbian women know what they were setting in motion when they stood up to ‘New York’s finest’ in the wee hours of 28 June 1969?
Probably not. All they were likely expecting was to spend the rest of the night in jail nursing their wounds.
If only they knew …