Its LGBTQ month here in the UK so for the next few days I am going to focus on our history and journey to equality. One of the most famous LGBTQ protests happened over in America in New York’s Stonewall Inn in 1969. Back then it was illegal to be gay in fact it was illegal to wear clothing not deigned for your gender and so those who were attracted to the same sex and transsexuals were persecuted by the police and the wider population. The only sanctuaries appeared in the form of mafia run establishments the most famous of which was the Stonewall inn.
The mafia had the power and resources to bribe the police who agreed to inform the bar of raids so there were not many people there and would not arrest the patrons who were. Gay people finally had some level of safety they went to Stonewall to feel loved to meet people they could develop a connection with and maybe fall in love as we all want. In the week leading up to the uprising many gay bars were raided and closed leaving the Stonewall inn as the last place people felt free to be themselves. The bar was filthy, but it was safe until Saturday June 28.
At 1:20 am police began a raid that they had not warned the bar of and was under the pretence of a lack of liquor licence. The police implemented a standard practice which was to make patrons show identification before they could leave the bar and female police officers were tasked with checking the sex of anyone in women’s clothing if they were a man they were arrested. This resulted in a steady stream of gay men, lesbians, and transsexuals onto the street most of whom had friends inside who they chose to wait for. As you can imagine tensions were high and anger amongst the patrons was growing. As was the crowd which was bigger than the amount of people had been in the bar marginalised people throughout the area came to see what was happening and they were pissed.
No-one knows exactly how the uprising began as so much was happening at once. A trans woman outside who was being harassed by an officer hit him with her purse. Inside the bar Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were transsexual women and had been fighting for LGBTQ rights since the early sixties they had been out enjoying a night celebrating Johnsons birthday when the raid occurred and they threw a brick and a bottle at their oppressors. Just as a lesbian in handcuffs was busy fighting off four police officers outside, she turned to the crowd and shouted, ‘why don’t you guys do something’. The crowd did something they began to throw pennies and beer bottle at the officers there were no official chants, no organisation, and no rules all that was left was a burning desire to be free. It was organic and violent fires were started in garbage cans and even attempted inside the bar.
Rumours began to spread that the raid was taking place because the mafia had not paid them off so those in the crowds began throwing pennies at officers which escalated into rocks and bottles. It was difficult for the police to there to get backup as the LGBTQ community were viewed as weak and non-threatening. When backup did arrive police vans and cars were overturned and those who had been arrested easily escaped in the commotion. The police attempted to arrest who they could but reports of police chasing people through the streets only to lose them and be chased themselves emerged. The first night of protests ended at around 4am after many protesters ended up in the hospital or were arrested.
It did not end there the uprising lasted three nights and the LGBTQ community was joined by other marginalised groups including the Black Panthers. The uprising led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front who were the first organisation publicly advocating equal rights. On the one-year anniversary of the uprising the first Gay Pride Parade took place on the streets of New York and have occurred on June 28th across the world since. Activists have fought all these year for equal rights eventually winning the right to marry in 2013. In 2016 Barrack Obama made the Stonewall inn a National Monument the first ever dedicated to LGBTQ history. The work for equality is nowhere near done as President Trump has shown in revoking rights of transsexuals in the military rights can be lost far easier than gained. The fight continues and we will win.