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50 years ago today, a police raid on a Manhattan nightclub sparked the most important event in the fight for LBGTQ+ rights the world over…
Once upon a time—and not too long ago—it was against the law to be homosexual. It still is in some parts of the world. This forced many to hide their truth. Some hid it even from themselves, the stakes were that high.
Others sought out friendly places. But even at the height of the Civil Rights, Anti-War, and Black Power movements in the era of flower power, peace, and love, few establishments—even in New York City—welcomed openly gay people.
The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village did.
Owned and operated by the Mafia, the management didn’t care who patronized the Stonewall as long as their money was good. Over time it came to attract the most marginalized: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes. etc. They found a new kind of family at the Stonewall.
Police raids on the Stonewall were common. But it was all for show. The cops would tip off the Mob boss, who would put less money in the tills. A few arrests would be made and alcohol removed. Neighbors would applaud and go back to bed. The next day, all would go on as before.
But the raid that took place on 28 June 2019 was different.
This time, those ticketed refused to leave. Passersby stopped to watch, chanting We Will Overcome. As the crowd grew, the cops got rougher. In self-defense a trans woman hit an officer with her handbag. He answered with a blow from his baton. In seconds, rocks, coins, bottles, batons were flying.
The raid has escalated into a full scale riot. The police were forced to barricade themselves inside the bar!
The next day, more than 2,000 sympathizers gathered at the Stonewall, now daubed with the slogan: Gay Power. This is when all those working toward LGBTQ+ rights galvanized.
A year later, the first march to honor the Stonewall Riot took place in Greenwich Village. It was the world’s first Pride march, which today happen throughout the world toward the end of June.
50 years on, the fight continues, every forward if never straight. We WILL over come.
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