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The History of Stonewall Riot – Causes, Impact and Discussions of the 1969 Uprising

  • Jul.12.2021
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History of Stonewall Riot

history of stonewall riot

What are the Stonewall riots? If you have ever heard about the famous riots at Stonewall 1969, you know the significance of this several-day uprising to the LGBTQ+ rights movement and the history of gay pride. To answer any of your questions about the Stonewall in uprising, this stonewall riots summary is full of the facts and information about the LGBT Stonewall riots of 1969.

When Were the Stonewall Riots

The date of the Stonewall riots was June 28, 1969. This date is significant because it marked a time in the history of the United States where soliciting homosexual sex was a crime. Other laws during the 1960s made life considerably difficult for people who did not fit the norms for gender and sexuality. Not only were there laws against homosexual sex, but there were also laws about wearing “gender appropriate” clothing. A person caught cross-dressing or wearing less than three articles of “gender appropriate” clothing would be arrested. Even those who were suspected to be wearing gender inappropriate clothing would be taken to the bathroom by a female police officer forced to strip and confirm their sex. Prior to 1966, it was illegal for bars to serve people who were not straight. Although that law changed in 1966, there was still heavy police traffic in bars that were known to be gay bars. Despite it being newly legal, most establishments still wouldn’t serve alcohol to gay people in 1969 for fear of having their liquor licenses revoked. Because of this, the bars that did serve LGBTQ+ people were often owned by the mafia and operated without a liquor license by bribing the local police not to arrest the bar owners and patrons. This is exactly the scenario that led to the Stonewall Inn uprising of 1969.

Where Were the Stonewall Riots

stonewall inn uprising

For a bit more Stonewall background, it is important to know the significance of the location of the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn was located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a part of Manhattan that was home to many people in the LGBTQ+ community. People flocked to the Stonewall Inn for its open space and allowance of dancing, drag queens, and homeless LGBTQ+ youth, all of which were difficult to find anywhere else.

Because many people couldn’t get away with serving alcohol in a gay club, the owners of some only gay clubs around were often part of the New York Mafia. The Mafia was able to profit off of the desperation of the LGBTQ+ community to have space where they would be safe from judgment and police violence. The conditions in the Stonewall Inn, however, were more than below the standard.

While the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street did provide an essential space for people of all walks of life in the LGBTQ+ community, it was also without clean water to wash glasses behind the bar, clean toilets, or drinks that weren’t watered down to cut costs. They also charged a cover fee to help with the club’s exclusivity and evasion of the laws.

What Caused the Stonewall Riots

While police were bribed by the mafia-affiliated owners to make sure that the Stonewall Inn could stay open, this didn’t protect the club from regular police raids.

On June 28, 1969, a police raid happened without the typical occurrence of the Stonewall Inn owners being notified, and without proper time to get rid of the evidence that laws were being broken. The police came in and violently arrested many of the employees and patrons of the bar. When the police raided the Stonewall Inn that night they did so violently, and instead of scattering and avoiding conflict as usual in this kind of situation, the patrons and outside bystanders began an uprising.

The biggest turning point happened when a woman, later identified as Stormé DeLarverie by the woman herself, was hit in the head by a police officer while being arrested. At this point, many people in the crowd proceeded to throw things at the officers including bottles from the bar and cobblestones from the street. The police as well as a few patrons and bystanders took cover in the bar, only for those participating in the uprising to breach the barricade several times, eventually setting the bar on fire. After the fire was set, the fire department was deployed and rescued those in the bar.

Protests and demonstrations continued for 5 days after the night of June 28. These eventful 6 days of demanding fair treatment under the law were put into action by many people and led by prominent gay liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson.

Stonewall Riot Leaders

stonewall riots significance

A lot of posts and articles about the Stonewall uprising want to know and pay tribute to the person who threw the first stone at stonewall. Most people know the leader and first stone thrower at stonewall as Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha P. Johnson was a black, self identified drag queen sex worker and LGBTQ+ activist. While Marsha P. Johnson called herself a drag queen, her identity may have been more similar to that of a transwoman, as her friends and family all knew her identity and her drag identity to be one and the same. While the leader of the uprising is an important thing to know and remember, it is also important to remember all the other acts of activism that Marsha P.

Johnson and her friend and fellow activist Sylvia Rivera did. Both of these pioneers of the LGBTQ+ liberation movement had to turn to sex work as their only form of income for survival because they were refused any other forms of work due to their sexuality and gender expression as transgender women. They both used the money that they made as sex workers to help shelter homeless LGBTQ+ youth in need. Although there were no direct Stonewall riot deaths, the sudden and mysterious disappearance and death of Marsha P. Johnson may have been in relation to her role in the uprising and as an active member of the LGBTQ+ community. It came after a string of several other deaths of gay rights activists and hate crimes in the early 1990s. Initially, Marsha P.

Johnson’s death was ruled a suicide, but the documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” sheds light on the ways in which police did not do much to investigate her death after finding her body in the river.

How Long Did the Stonewall Riots Last

The Stonewall riots timeline occurred over a period of six days of uprising starting initially on the night of the raid of the Stonewall Inn bar on June 28 and ending on the third of July. The uprising was significant in getting people together to demand equal rights. In the days following the initial incident, people continued to march in the streets.

Stonewall Riots Significance: The Stonewall Movement

stonewall movement

Knowing about Stonewall history is important for understanding the history of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States and around the world. What is important about the stonewall riot of 1969 on a massive scale is that it was the spark that ignited a flame of movement and change in the world for the LGBTQ+ community. After the uprising, public awareness was raised and discriminatory laws and practices were made illegal.

The Stonewall uprising didn’t only affect the 1969 gay rights movement, the uprising marked a day when the people spoke and took action. For this reason, it has been a historic day of celebration and activism ever since it took place on June 28, 1969. It took many years for the captain of the NYPD to make an official apology on behalf of the police department for the violent acts committed by police that sparked the uprising. This apology came in 2019 on the 50-year anniversary of the uprising. After the initial unrest, Stonewall events would continue to take place in a different form at the location of the Stonewall Inn riots.

June 28, 1970, marked the first official gay pride parade. This parade would happen in New York City every year and spread to become an annual occurrence in many other countries all over the world. Some of the most popular and highly attended pride parades can be found in places like Brazil, Spain, South Korea, Germany, South Africa, and so many other countries. It is important to remember that while the 2021 pride month marks the 52nd year since the Stonewall Uprising in New York, there are still many places in the world in which homophobic and discriminatory laws are still in place.

stonewall history

There are a handful of countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty. In the USA, even though laws against homosexuality and “gender inappropriate” clothing are a thing of the past, there are still ways in which people in the LGBTQ+ community are discriminated against. Trangender women, specifically black transgender women, suffer from the highest rate of fatal violence against the gender non-conforming community. It is for this reason that many people look to pride parades as a way to promote activism and the spread of important information.

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