Saturday, June 18, 2011

STONEWALL/ The Beginnings of Gay Liberation

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

The above is the opening paragraph  from the Wikipedia article on the Stonewall riots of 1969. June is Gay Pride month. Gays and friends of gays around the world celebrate the last Sunday in June as Gay Pride Day, but alas too few of those attending those celebrations know about the history behind them. There are a couple of generations of gay men and women who have grown up in a world where gay people are actually visible, and this is so wonderful. But, they know very little about a time when this was not so, a time when virtually every gay person hid who they were from the world at large. What happened outside that seedy little Greenwich Village, mafia-run bar, in 1969 changed, forever, the world as gay people knew it.

I hate to be just another of those who say "I was there" but I WAS THERE. I was working as a waiter in another village gay bar, Seventeen Barrow, just a couple of blocks away. It was in an old building that was said to be Aaron Burr's stable. I was not a rioter that night. I was a witness. My boss gave me and another worker a few minutes to go and see the action as word came to us of it. I must admit that I did not fully appreciate what we were witnessing, first hand, that night. The Wikipedia article is pretty comprehensive and there are several books and a couple of films dedicated to this important moment in LGBT history. Consider checking them out.

Here are some of the very few photographs of the events of that evening.









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