Thursday, 28 June 2012

43rd Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall Riots mark a key moment in the history and development of the gay rights movement, not only in the US but worldwide. 28th June (or the nearest Saturday) is often used as the date for Pride rallies and events.

Reflections of One of the Oldest Surviving Veterans of the Seminal Uprising 
Scott G Brown, one of the oldest surviving Stonewall rioters
The US PBS channel website has an 80 minute documentary, Stonewall Uprising, available online here:

The following item first appeared in the 2009 edition of Past2Present (sadly not available electronically).

Stonewall Inn
Thanks to Wikipedia and

Photo: Stonewall Inn, 1969 - courtesy of Wikipedia

The Stonewall Inn was the site of the famous Stonewall riots of 1969. Located at 53 Christopher Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. Stonewall is regarded as the single most important event that led to the modern gay and lesbian rights movement.

Originally constructed between 1843 and 1846 as stables, the property became a restaurant from 1930 until it was gutted by fire in the mid 1960s. On April 21, 1966, members of the Mattachine Society staged a "Sip-In" a block northeast of Stonewall at Julius Bar in which they challenged a New York State Liquor Authority rule that homosexuals could not be served alcohol because they were "disorderly". A court ruling later said that homosexuals could peacefully assemble.

On 18 March 1967, The Stonewall opened. It was, in its time, the largest gay establishment in the US and did a good business, though, as with most gay clubs then, police raids were common.

By 27 June 1969, the patrons of The Stonewall Inn had had enough. As the police raided the bar, a crowd of 400 patrons gathered on the street outside and watched the officers arrest the bartender, the doorman and a few drag queens. The crowd, which eventually grew to an estimated 2000 strong, was fed up. Something about that night ignited years of anger at the way police treated gay people. Chants of “Gay Power!” echoed in the streets. Soon beer bottles and trash cans were flying.

Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away. It looked like it was over. But the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before. For two hours, protesters rioted in the street outside of the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd.

On the first night alone, 13 people were arrested and 4 police officers were injured. At least two rioters were said to be severely beaten by the police and many more sustained injuries.
The following Wednesday, approximately 1000 protesters returned to continue the protest and march on Christopher Street. A movement had begun. But a few months after the riots, in late 1969, The Stonewall Inn closed.

Over the next 20 years, the space was occupied by various establishments, including a Chinese restaurant and a shoe store. Many visitors and even residents were unaware of the building's connection to the Stonewall riots. In the early 1990s, a new gay bar, named simply "Stonewall", opened in the west half of the original Stonewall Inn. About this time, the block of Christopher St between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was given the honorary name of "Stonewall Place" by the Borough of Manhattan.

Each year during the Pride March crowds gather outside the Stonewall Inn to enjoy its rich history.

In 1995 the movie "Stonewall" was released. Written by Rikki Beadle-Blair and loosely adapted from Martin Duberman's book of the same name, the Film won awards and was well received at Film Festivals the world over. The Film's Screenwriter has adapted his Screenplay for the stage and "Stonewall" the play had it's World Premiere in London in July 2007 before heading to the 2007 Edinburgh Festival.

In June 1999, the area was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places for its significance to gay and lesbian history. The area delineated included the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park and portions of surrounding streets and sidewalks. The area was declared a US National Historic Landmark in February 2000.

Today, the Stonewall bar is once again a favourite gay night spot in New York City. Occupying part of the original Stonewall Inn, the bar hosts plenty of locals and out-of-towners aiming to pay tribute to a gay New York landmark.

Photo: Stonewall Inn, 2010 - courtesy of Wikipedia
  • The Quantum Leap TV episode "Running for Honor" (originally aired in the US on 15 January 1992) and the Quantum Leap comic book, issue 9 - "Up Against A Stonewall", both make reference to the Stonewall Inn.
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