June is Pride Month, the annual celebration of the birth of modern gay liberation — born when LGBT people rioted for several nights in New York City’s Greenwich Village. They were fed up with constant police harassment and societal injustice. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn one too many times. A glass was thrown and the battle was on.
The subject of rioting and its role in political protest has been on the nation’s mind these past few weeks following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. Rioting and looting during the first few nights has almost entirely subsided while massive peaceful protest has continued and grown. This is good because the early rioting, mostly the doing of opportunists, was accomplishing little more than giving police an excuse to attack the movement.
The situation in 1969 for the gay community was substantially different. There was virtually no movement, no large organizations, and no allies in the broader community. Gays were isolated, hidden away… in the closet. What burst forth on June 28, 1969, was a completely spontaneous and organic reaction. I doubt that five minutes earlier anyone in that bar imagined what was about to happen.
Last year during Pride Month I posted here about two riots that gave birth to the modern gay liberation movement: Stonewall in 1969, and also a little-known riot three years earlier in San Francisco at Compton’s Cafeteria. Below you’ll find links to both posts and some very interesting videos.
But first, NBC News last night drew the connection between Stonewall and the current protests against racism and police violence.
A Look Back at Stonewall
A Look Back at Compton’s Cafeteria
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