The Stonewall riots were an important part of American history, and an even more important part of the homosexual community of the nation. It was the first violent demonstration for gay rights in the United States.
In the 1960s’, Greenwich Village had quite a large population of gay and lesbian residents, and had ever since the end of World War I. In the 1960s’, however, homosexuals suffered worse discrimination in the United States than many other oppressed groups throughout our nation’s history. Our legal system did not support their rights, and many establishments did not welcome members of the LGBTQ community. The Stonewall Inn, however, did welcome this community, and, in the early morning of June 28, 1969, several police officers started a raid that incited what is today known as the Stonewall riots.
Raids of this nature were typically carried out by a few police officers who would enter the establishment, line up the patrons, and ask for their identification. Those dressed as women would be taken to a more private place for the police officers to check their gender, and anyone found to be a man dressed as a woman would be arrested. At the Stonewall Inn, people refused to show their identification, and those dressed as women refused to go with the officers. When the police officers started bringing patrons out of the bar and to the police cars to be arrested, they fought back. By that time, a crowd had surrounded the bar, and violence erupted on the street.
The Stonewall riots were the first violent protests against the way the LGBTQ community was being treated in this country. As the violence escalated, the crowd grew. People saw what was going on, and many joined to take part. Most participants who have been interviewed about the event say that the riot that erupted that night was completely spontaneous; no group or organization started it, just a community of people who were fed up with the denial of their civil liberties.
The next nights, more rioting took place near the site of the previous night’s activities. The riots made the cover of the New York Daily News and several other newspapers covered the activity with both favorable and not favorable reactions.
In the aftermath of the riots, the gay community began to organize. They formed the Gay Liberation Front, the first LGBTQ organization to use the word “gay” in its name. People were out and proud, now, and there was no sense to them in hiding it anymore. Several newspapers were started to spread the word, and newsletters were formed to pass around information. However, raids on gay bars did not stop, but neither did the public dissent.
On the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the nation’s very first Gay Pride Parade was held on the very same street where the riots took place. This parade received coverage on the front page of The New York Times. There was little resistance from onlookers or the police. Parades were also held that day in Chicago and Los Angeles. In the years following, more and more cities held Pride Parades.
Now, Pride is an event around the world, with many, many cities hosting parades and festivities at the end of June to commemorate the Stonewall riots. Many people and groups march in the parade, some with floats and some without. In many cities, this parade is still seen as an event of activism. In cities that are more accepting of their LGBTQ population, these parades are notably more jovial. Either way, these parades are an important part of a vital community in the United States and abroad. They are a time to celebrate equal rights and love.