LGBTQ+ Pride: What happened at Stonewall?

Last June 6, 2019, the New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for the Stonewall raid. This is the first time in LGBTQ+ pride history that the NYPD apologized for the events of June 1969. The Stonewall raid, more commonly known in history as the Stonewall riots, is dubbed as the event that sparked the revolution of the LGBTQ+ community and the first Gay Pride Parade. 

The Stonewall Riots

It has been half a century since the Stonewall Riots, yet the events are still unclear. Famous LGBTQ+ activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were at Stonewall Inn when the raid took place. Marsha P. Johnson, in particular, was credited to be the person to throw the first brick at the NYPD that quickly sparked the riot. However, this has been denied by Marsha and disproven by other accounts of the Stonewall riots. The start of the riot, much like the entire Stonewall riots, is a series of resistance by different people. Nevertheless, Johnson and Rivera were part of the group of black transgenders and drag queens who stood up to the raid of the NYPD. They subsequently mobilized the community to resist together. 

The raid of the Stonewall Inn was routine at that time as it was illegal to operate gay bars in 1969. However, bar owners found a way to subvert the ban and still operate. Whenever a bar was raided, the owners would pick up a new establishment to operate in. On the fateful night of June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn grew tired of the raids and started resisting individually. According to historian Martin Duberman, witnesses pointed out different people. Some have said that a lesbian was the first to strike a policeman, but no one claimed to be that person. Others have said that a trans person hit a policeman. Then, there was the famous brick thrown by Marsha P. Johnson.

Whatever sparked the riots, what is worth noting is that within that night, the crowd around Stonewall Inn grew into a mob. The mob started shouting and throwing things at the police. The mob grew so much that they were able to corner the police into the bar until reinforcements came. The first riot became more violent as the night progressed and cops became angrier and more frustrated at not being able to break the crowd surrounding them.

The next days after the Stonewall riot, more protests transpired. The Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance protested again on the steps of Stonewall the next night. They also handed out fliers to make the LGBTQ+ community more visible. The next year, the first gay pride march was held on the same street where Stonewall Inn is located. 

The Stonewall protests not only gave the LGBTQ+ community the pride march; it gave them something to actually celebrate. These protests put the LGBTQ+ community in the map, which then allowed them to demand for their rights. It began a new era for the community—one where they no longer had to hide.

Things are looking up

A lot has changed for the LGBTQ+ since 1969. None of these would have been possible if not for the Stonewall riots and the GLF and the GAA who united the community to resist oppression. Although milestones have been achieved outside the US, the international LGBTQ+ community still has a lot to go. NYPD Commissioner O’Neill’s apology for the Stonewall raid is a ray of light in the midst of violence and prejudice still being done against the LGBTQ+ all over the world. It is important for the younger generations to remember gay pride history, no matter how murky it is, and remember that it is a protest. To march during Pride is to resist with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and the rest of the drag queens and LGBTQ+ in history.

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