For LGBTQ+ individuals in America, June 28th 1969 was the day that changed everything. The social script was challenged and people took a stand for the ones they loved. People started fighting for their rights and the nation began to organize. The LGBTQ+ community was gaining momentum, and to think it all started in a bar.
On that June night, police entered the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, at 1:20 a.m. and launched a raid. While the police waited for patrol cars to take away the arrested suspects and the seized alcohol, the bar’s patrons began to resist. They refused to follow orders and the actions that result would change the future for LGBTQ+ Americans forever.
Thirteen people were arrested that night. Those who weren’t arrested exited through the front door, but they didn’t go far. Within a short time, the crowd swelled to an estimated 2,000. As police put the arrested into their cars that were now on the scene, the crowd threw whatever they could get their hands on in protest (pennies, beer bottles, trash cans) at the police and shouted, “Gay power!”
Theses riots continued for six nights. The resistance wasn’t planned, nor were the riots that followed, but the time had come to fight back and there was no going back.
“Every movement arrives at a moment when people say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” says Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, or SAGE. “That was the Stonewall riots for the gay rights movement.”
“People will point out there were acts of resistance before Stonewall. But those acts of resistance were on a smaller scale,” says David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. “This was an act of resistance that was a mass movement. It was mass crowds. These other events were smaller, they weren’t sustained, and they didn’t get in the media. Plus, the Stonewall riots sparked the gay liberation movement, by the founding of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance.”
The memory of the Stonewall riots are kept alive through annual gay pride parades that are held in June around the country. With the month of June soon approaching, I think it is important to remember our roots as a community. To remember why we celebrate. Every year you can participate in celebrations in major cities such as Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas or Chicago. Or visit the Stonewall Inn and New York-based events.