Friday, October 12, 2012

LGBT History Month: Stonewall Riots

Image Source, edited by Diana *BunnyKissd* Bukowski

Although the LGBT Civil Rights Movement had been building for decades, many people mark the beginning with the Stonewall Riots that took place in the summer of 1969.  In the 1960s, bars & restaurants were prohibited from serving homosexuals, and those that were known to do so were often raided by the police.  The June 28, 1969 raid of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street was meant to be just another routine raid: line up the customers, check their ID, arrest those without ID or in drag, and back to business.

But this time the patrons fought back.  As the patrons of the bar were released, instead of dispersing as usual, they hung around.  More people gathered, and while the crowd initially stood by only mocking the police officers, the situation grew more hostile as the night went on.  The rioting began when one lesbian patron, who had been struggling with four police officers for about ten minutes, was hit on the head by one with a billy club.  It is said she turned to the crowd and yelled, "Why don't you guys do something?"

Eventually the Tactical Police Force (TPF) arrived to break the riots up.  It took them until 4am to break up the rioting and clear the streets that night.  Of the hundreds who were there, only 13 were arrested and four officers were injured, but many in the crowd were hospitalized, and the Stonewall Inn was destroyed.  The next night the protesters came back; this time, not just hustlers, drag queens, and homeless gay youth with nothing to lose, but curious onlookers, tourists, and "police provocateurs" added to the rioters numbers. 

Thousands of people crowded outside the bar, which had reopened, blocking the streets, terrifying passing cars & buses, and starting fires in trash cans.  The TPF was brought out again, and again took until 4am to clear the streets.  Due to rain, the rioting was intermittent over the next few days, flaring up when The Village Voice ran reports of the events which were unflattering to participants on both side.

The Stonewall Riots united the gay community to fight for LGBT Civil Rights; groups such as the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance were formed; and Gay Pride was celebrated for the first time on the one year anniversary (June 28, 1970).  The Stonewall bar is once again a popular gay night spot in NYC, attracting locals and tourists looking to pay tribute to a piece LGBT history.


Also this month:

~ October is also National Bullying Prevention Month.

~ October 10th was Unity Day; wear orange to show your support and remind others about the importance of bullying prevention.

~ October 11th was National Coming Out Day when we celebrate coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or as an ally. See the Human Rights Campaign website for resources on coming out.

~ October 19th is Spirit Day; wear purple on this day to support LGBT youth & stand up against bullying.

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