Stonewall, Riots, and Raids Part I

Introduction

First off, I am definitely not an expert on the history surrounding this event so this will probably be an overview of the event itself and further resources that you can hunt out. I was not at the riot, raid, or involved with advocacy pre-existing this event. I admire and am incredibly grateful for my fellow human beings who fought, protested the police brutality. They started a mass movement, or were a large part, the catalyst, to something I am incredibly grateful for today because of the feelings it will bring to the surface. These advocates are my heroes.

In this post I will cover an overview of pre, post, and during stonewall. I will also give some further resources and information on other riots and raids that are related to Stonewall because of their relation in the revolution against police brutality towards people of gender and sexual difference. Thank you to all who played a part in these events for your courage and willingness to fight back.

About Stonewall

“The Stonewall Riots were a series of violent conflicts between LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals and New York City police officers that began during a 28 June 1969 police raid, and lasted several days. They were centered at the Stonewall Inn and are widely recognized as the catalyst for the modern-day movement towards LGBT rights. Also called the Stonewall Uprising, Stonewall Rebellion, Stonewall Revolution or simply Stonewall, the clash was a watershed for the worldwide gay rights movement, as LGBT people had never before acted together in such large numbers to forcibly resist police harassment directed towards their community. Many also credit the events as igniting a movement to celebrate gay pride with events such as pride parades and dyke marches.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots)

Pre-Stonewall and History

To read about the history pre-dating Stonewall check out the wikipedia website that talks about the first sexually different club created on a college campus, what “sip-ins” are, and about the history behind police harassment:

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots)

The raid

“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.[7] 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”.[8] They threw bottles at the officers, and even used a parking meter as a battering ram. Heterosexual folk singer Dave van Ronk, who was walking through the area, was grabbed by the police, pulled into the bar, and beaten. 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[7] 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

—Stonewall Girls[9]

Throughout the night the police singled out many transgender people and gender nonconformists, including butch women and effeminate men, among others, often beating them. On the first night alone 13 people were arrested and four police officers, as well as an undetermined number of protesters, were injured. It is known, however, that at least two rioters were severely beaten by the police.[11] Bottles and stones were thrown by protesters who chanted “Gay Power!” The crowd, estimated at over 2000, fought with over 400 police officers.

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.

A connection is frequently drawn between the timing of gay icon Judy Garland‘s death and funeral, also in June 1969, and the Riots.[12][13][14] Time noted “The uprising was inspirited by a potent cocktail of pent-up rage (raids of gay bars were brutal and routine), overwrought emotions (hours earlier, thousands had wept at the funeral of Judy Garland) and drugs.”[15] Coincidental or not, the proximity of Garland’s death to Stonewall has become a part of LGBT history and lore.[16]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots)

Legacy

The stonewall riots fueled the creation of the Gay Liberation Front (though this may have been bound to happen without the stonewall riots, though they were a main factor into contributed to its creation). The Gay Liberation Front was a huge cornerstone for the Gay Rights movement. See the link below to read on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

Before Stonewall: The book

This is a book by William A. Percy (whose biography you can see below) about the Pre-Stonewall days, which basically talks about the advocacy for Gay and Lesbian Rights before the raid at the Stonewall Inn.

You can see his biography at this website: http://williamapercy.com/about.htm

His book: http://williamapercy.com/pub-Stonewall.htm

Stonewall: The Movie

The Stonewall Movie was made in 1995 and tells the story of the Stonewall raid, riot what have you. Here is the plot summary of the movie:

“Who could have guessed that a bunch of men in dresses would breath life into the movement to win equal rights for gay men and lesbians? Certainly not the police who raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular “drag” bar in Greenwich Village. After a long history of police raids, extortion, and brutality, a gaggle of drag queens at the Stonewall decide they have had enough and begin to riot when the police try to load them into a paddy wagon. Told by “La Miranda” (Hector), a regular customer at the Stonewall Inn, the film is a recounting of events that led up to that fateful day in 1969. “Matty Dean” is the handsome angry young man that La Miranda meets at the Stonewall one day and with whom she/he quickly falls in love. “Bostonia” is the self-styled Queen Mother of the drag queens and guides each initiate gently “into the life.” Her lover, Vinnie, is the closeted proprietor of the Stonewall. His tragic response to the suffocation he feels bearing down on him from a homophobic world — perhaps as much as anything else — sparks the riots. This is the Stonewall Riots “As Told By La Miranda”. Written by Mark Fleetwood {mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu}” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114550/plotsummary)

You can see the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114550/trailers

Here are some quotes from the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114550/quotes

Stonewall Veterans Society

This is the site of the people who started it all. Thanks to them, the Gay Liberation Front was started. You can view their biographies, pictures, songs from the event, and services they offer.

Check out the veterans of the raid itself: http://www.stonewallvets.org/

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