Queer Town: Stonewall Riots Remembered

The big neon sign at the Stonewall Inn is gone now, and the world famous gay bar has undergone a complete renovation. But it will always be the sacred ground where an angry bunch of drag queens and effeminate gay men pushed back after New York City police officers raided the place, and subsequently started the modern gay rights movement. The official date of the Stonewall Riots, according to a plaque outside the bar, is Friday, June 27, 1969.

Queer Town: Stonewall Riots Remembered

At Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street, a few yards away from the Stonewall Inn, crowds tangled with police for several nights in late June, 1969.

When I lived in Greenwich Village, I often jogged past Stonewall as I headed west to Hudson River Park for a long run. Like a devote Catholic who always crosses himself whenever he passes a church, I gave the bar a mental salute every time I ran by it. I felt a strong connection to the place, although I never stepped a foot inside.

Queer Town: Stonewall Riots Remembered

Gays and lesbians hang out in front of the Stonewall Inn in June, 1969.

Over the years, I have met many people who claimed to be there that night in late June and I've heard many stories. Here are some of the facts. According to various news reports and historical accounts, the police raided the bar a little after midnight, so that technically makes the official date of the uprising Saturday, June 28, 1969. Also, Judy Garland died on June 22, 1969, but her funeral took place on June 27. From books I've read and films I've seen, Judy's death, and the mourning of it, was undoubtedly some kind of factor in the Stonewall Riots. And, yes, drag queens and effeminate gay men were at the center of the fracas. Everyone else joined them soon after.

Gays and lesbians were working on gay rights before Stonewall erupted, and many them were based in Los Angeles. But it was this particular night that sent a message to the world: The police, the politicians, and anyone else cannot mess with the gays anymore.

For recently discovered archival footage of the first Gay Pride March in New York City, check out this link. You can also read more about the Stonewall Riots from a libertarian perspective at GayPatriot.net.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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