Friday, June 27, 2008

Never Forget...

I am typing this right around the corner from where the fight for “Gay Pride” began. We should never forget why we celebrate on the last Sunday of every June. From Wikipedia:


On Saturday morning, June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village where gay people frequently gathered to socialize on Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A number of factors differentiated the raid that took place on June 28 from other raids at the Stonewall Inn. Because raids had occurred at the Stonewall Inn in the past, managers usually knew what to expect when a raid was about to occur. Likewise, raids tended to occur earlier in the evening, which allowed the bar to continue with normal business for the busiest hours of the night.

On June 28th, however, an unexpected raid unfolded at the Inn. At approximately 1:20 am, eight police officers entered the bar with a warrant authorizing a search for illegal sales of alcohol. Of the eight policemen, only one was dressed in his uniform. The police questioned the customers and made many of them show identification. Many were escorted out of the bar, and some were even arrested. The escorted crowd became very angry and began to cause chaos outside of the Inn. While the police loaded arrested patrons into the police van, the existing crowd responded with catcalls and then, eventually erupted into violence. Transgender activist Sylvia Rivera claimed she "led the charge". They threw bottles at the officers, and even used a parking meter as a battering ram. The crowd’s attacks were unrelenting. Word quickly spread of the riot and many residents, as well as patrons of nearby bars, rushed to the scene. When the police officers went inside the bar, the angry clients blockaded the Inn and then torched it.

Eventually, the protesting crowd was so strong that each time the police would disperse the mob, a new group would re-form behind the police’s back, preventing them from actually breaking up the riot. Over the course of five days, the crowd of 400 protesters continued throwing bottles and lighting fires around the Inn. Police attempted to capture some of the violent rioters. If the rioters did not act fast enough, they were pushed and shoved and even clubbed to the ground by officers. Protesters in the crowd began to scream "Gay Power" and some activists dressed as drag queens started chanting:

We are the Stonewall Girls
We wear our hair in curls
We wear no underwear
We show our pubic hair
We wear our dungarees
Above our nelly knees

The police sent additional forces in the form of the Tactical Patrol Force, a riot-control squad originally trained to counter Vietnam War protesters. The tactical patrol force arrived to disperse the crowd. However, they failed to break up the crowd, who sprayed them with rocks and other projectiles.

Eventually the scene quieted, but the crowd returned again the next night. While less violent than the first night, the crowd had the same energy as it had on the previous night. Skirmishes between the rioters and the police ensued until approximately 4:00 a.m. The third day of rioting fell five days after the raid on the Stonewall Inn. On that Wednesday, 1,000 people congregated at the bar and again caused extensive property damage.

The following year, in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, the newly formed Gay Liberation Front organized a march from Greenwich Village
to Central Park. Between 5,000 and 10,000 men and women attended the march. Many gay pride celebrations choose the month of June to hold their parades and events to celebrate “The Hairpin Drop Heard Round the World".

So to Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall ‘Girls’, the dykes and the fags who started the fight for my rights as a gay person – I thank you. And I will NEVER forget…

9 comments:

Dan said...

Amen Sister!

Jennie said...

I think I forget that events like the Stonewall riots have signifigance for the straight community as well. It's important to realize that everyone benefits from an attitude of tolerance in our society. Hatred and prejudice wound everyone and especially those who are targeted. When a governmental body that represents everyone persecutes a single segment of the population, everyone has to protest, not just those persecuted. Thank you so much, Sylvia, Stonewall Girls and all of those who fought for the right to be who they are in the open. You are a gift to us all!

Tom Aloisi said...

The article fails to mention that it was the day of Judy Garland's funeral, and many gay people were in mourning about it, and we nto goign to deal with any more police bullshit. Imagine if Madonna died today, and the police raided the gay bars!

mistress maddie said...

Thank you David for posting the story of the meaning of Pride!!And those who paved the way for the rights we have now.I will admit that like any gay man I like to go see all the hot eyecandy,sling a cock-a-tail or two and party the weekend away,but it is also a salute to those who stood high and strong for the whole community.I always tip the hat for those at the Stonewall that night!Have a wonderful Pride weekend girl!!

Beth said...

I never knew about this...in my "straight" little world. I agree with Jennie...everyone needs to fight against intolerance...for whatever reason...ignorance should just not be accepted by anyone or used as a reason for violence.

I will be celebrating with you on Sunday Girlfriend!!!! CHEERS!

Howard said...

Thank you for the reminder, David. All those years ago when I lived in the city, I worked at The Circle Repertory Theater Company, located just off Sheridan Square, around the corner from the Stonewall. I was there some 15 years afterwards, but it was still commemorated with a plaque one the building, which was then a bagel shop. When I wasn't working, I would enjoy the views of all the beautiful boys, and would march every year in the parade. After the parade, I would often end up at Marie's Crisis on Christopher Street, and celebrate in a classic gay way, drinking and singing show tunes...

Good times.

Joy said...

Thanks for this post. I'd heard about it but didn't really know all of this. I'll be with you in spirit (even though I won't have much left after this weekend!)

Renee said...

It makes me sad that people have to fight for rights they should automatically have. Thanks to all of those who led (and continue to lead) the world to the way it should be.

Zombie Mom said...

Happy Pride. I always go visit the Stonewall site and say a little prayer of thanks (usually with Tasti-D-Lite in hand - so convenient) for all those men and women who so bravely fought to make our home more tolerant.

One of my fave memories in the world is celebrating that spirit of surviving in a hostile world with some early Act Up folks (I am old) back in the day in the village.... ah....

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