Updated: Jun 2, 2020
I don’t know about you all but the first thing I think of when I think of Pride month is the multi-colored flag and the beautiful people that rep it. Human rights being extended to everyone, no matter their race, gender identity or sexuality has been a normal train of thought for me. Unfortunately, not everyone has the logic to understand that love is love. You see, June is about more than the celebrations, the parades, the smiles and fun. It’s about liberation against police brutality, unity, equal rights and solidarity.
That’s where Stonewall comes in. In the early hours of June 28th, 1969, the NYPD raided a gay club called Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The police, per usual, handled the club goers and employees with extreme force and aggression, leading to a violent six day protest with law enforcement and the neighborhood residents. This monumental moment in history served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement that we know and support in the United States and around the world.
The LGBT community weren’t accepted in the early 1960s and preceding decades, as there was even a criminal statute that allowed police to arrest people wearing less than three “gender-appropriate” pieces of clothing. This ignorant law is just one of the ways gay clubs became a form of sanctuary, a place of refuge and freedom. Having a safe haven still pissed law enforcement off, as they partnered with the NYC State Liquor Authority and began coming for each establishment that openly served someone who was gay. They argued that the mere gathering of homosexuals was “disorderly.” Granted these laws were overturned in ’66, if someone of the same sex openly loved on their partner (holding hands, kissing, or dancing), they could still be arrested, as this was still deemed illegal.
Being that the entire LGBT community were shunned away in most places, the Mafia saw profit in serving them, and eventually controlled most of Greenwich Village’s gay bars in the ’60s. The Genovese family even bribed NYPD to ignore the activities occurring within the club. Stonewall Inn was able to go under the radar for quite sometime due to dirty cops tipping off the family before any raids occurred. This allowed the bar to hide the alcohol and put an end to any other activities that the state deemed illegal. With this in mind, before the Stonewall Riots occurred, the NYPD raided the same exact club just days before with no problem at all. But, this time, on June 28th, no one tipped the bar or mafia off.
Due to the lack of knowledge of the raid, NYPD burst through the doors of Stonewall Inn with a warrant in hand, finding alcohol and the LGBT community being themselves behind closed doors. Similar to how the 1965 Watts Riots in LA sparked within a matter of minutes, shit got real in Greenwich Village within seconds. Known badass, activist and Black Drag Queen Marsha P. Johnson and Latinx Queen Sylvia Rivera were the first to resist police that night, throwing anything they could to wound them. Soon, instead of fleeing the scene, the neighborhood decided to gather outside of the bar. Being fed up with past aggression and the current handling they were witnessing of the bar-goers and employees, the crowd grew agitated. A cop hit Stormé DeLarverie, a black lesbian, over the head before forcing her into a paddy wagon. She immediately shouted at the growing crowd to act, and you bet your sweet ass that that’s exactly what they did!