On June 28, 1969 in Greenwich village, New York at the Stonewall Inn violent riots broke out by members of the LGBT community in anger against the police raid that took place there. People were angered by the blatant discrimination they were being treated with by society and had finally had enough.
Some of the most prominent figures of the riots included, Storme DeLaverie, a butch Lesbian and Drag Queen credited with throwing the first punch at cops during the riots. Other prominent figures include, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Johnson was a Genderqueer and self-proclaimed Drag Queen often credited with throwing the first brick at the police. However, the historical accuracy of this is often debated. Rivera was a Trans Activist and also a self-identified Drag Queen who, like Johnson, was also credited with throwing the first brick at the police. Rivera was cited to be friends with Johnson as well. There has been a continuing debate on whether either of them were there at the riots at all in the first place.
A little bit before the Stonewall Riots, there was an emergence of the “Homophile Movement,” organizations demanding equal rights regardless of gender or sexual identity in the 1950s. The term Homophile, is translated as “Loving all the same” in Greek to show that LGBT activists would rather combat hatred with love instead of fight with the same hatred shown to them. Unfortunately, the organizations were conducted and enforced by majorly white men who focused on themselves and not on other diversities, gender, etc.
Fact: An interesting fact on the matter is that during this time, homosexuality was illegal in all states except for Illinois
American leftists rebelled against the so-called American values that invoked hatred inside people by creating an Anti-Patriotic and Anti-Americanist culture. Society’s inability to stop the Vietnam War (1955-1975) was a contributing factor to people rebelling against America. The Gay Rights Movement prevailed soon after the Stonewall Riots and showed that many people had not yet given up on America with their determination to fight for equal rights for all. In this way, patriotism came in a new way from the people where they did not have to simply accept the norms of society as they thought, but instead to strive and fight to change it. Many could say that John F. Kennedy’s legitimization of social activism influenced people to take action in protests and activism. The Declaration of Independence was an important tool used by protestors to get their demands across.
“In 1968 a flyer distributed by activists asked: ‘Are we guaranteeing to all of our citizens the rights, the liberties, the freedom, which took birth and first form in the Declaration of Independence?’”(Hall, 544).
While the Homophile Movement was led and mostly focused on white men, the Stonewall Riots were organized by a diverse range of people that were angry at the treatment they were receiving and the silencing of their voices. Some of the range of protestors and riot coordinators include, but not limited to:
- Drag Queens
- Street Queer Youth
- Queer People of Youth
- Butch Lesbians
- Transgender People
The riots stemmed from the police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn, which was also a Gay Bar, when people refused to leave the area passively. These people were tired of the common raids of gay bars as they fought back against the police. The bar was damaged as it was set ablaze and calmness was not restored until 3:35am. It has been reported that many of the protestors threw shot glasses and high heeled shoes at the police. 13 People were arrested and many were severely injured. Word of the violence spread rapidly through the mainstream media and gay press and the violence continued for the next three nights as the patrons fought for their rights to remain at the bar.
More than 2000 protestors had confrontations with the police during the Stonewall Riots, which ended in much violence and the event came to be known as “Year Zero” in the Gay Liberation Movement.
As an aftermath after the riots, during the 1970s, queer Canadians staged many protests, almost as an inspiration from the Stonewall Riots. Notable participants started STAR – Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, after the erasure of this identity from Stonewall Stories.
The Stonewall rebellion created a new wave of groups willing to take direct action against anti-homosexual organizations and LGBT groups were able to acknowledge homosexuality more than they were before. These riots managed to greatly contribute to the Gay Liberation Movement and help push society a step forward in their fight for equal rights for all individuals.
To learn more about The Stonewall Riots and be better informed about the Gay Liberation Movement, visit the link: https://stonewallforever.org