“Stonewall: See Me, Hear Me”
Since the beginning of time gays and lesbians and all else in between deviating for the sexual and gender norm have been denied equal rights as the rest of us. It has denied them everything from jobs to marriage and has been a means of persecution in America for decades. They’ve been accused of being Communists, pedophiles, and the cause of AIDS. They’ve struggled for equality and made many great steps so far.
The major problem that is going to be covered here is based on general homophobia mainly in the 1950s and 60s. With the rise of the Red Scare in the 1950s and the onset of McCarthyism, homosexuality was frowned upon and any groups formed by homosexuals to fight for voice and equality were labeled as Communist groups. McCarthyism eventually died down and the accusations of everyone being a Communist died with it, however the homophobia did not end. A common event in the 50s and 60s was that the police would raid gay bars and nightclubs, humiliating and bashing all those within. On some occasions, the identities of all those at the bars would be published in the newspaper, causing even more discrimination upon them. Police would use any reason they could think of to justify an arrest on indecency charges. These charges included kissing, holding hands, wearing clothing of traditional to the opposite gender, or even just being at the bar during the raid. The police would plant officers in street clothing in the bar to lure people to admitting they were gay or to catch them so they could arrest them as well. This avoided bars being notified of an upcoming raid in advance. Also, bars could have their liquor license taken away for knowingly serving a group of three or more homosexuals.
Many associations formed to fight against these injustices. Of them was the Mattachine Society, which was one of the first gay rights organizations in the United States. The successfully battled the liquor laws and no longer was two men kissing in public considered indecent behavior. Thusly, gay bars were now legal in 1969, but the Stonewall Inn, a prominent gay bar in New York city, was still raided. There are numerous reasons: it operated without a liquor license, and had topless male strippers as entertainment, and was believed to bring a seedy element to the area. Race may also have been involved, considering the bar was popular to blacks and Hispanics as well. The fact that there were homosexuals of color in the bar made it even more objectionable. The Stonewall was so frequently raided that the patrons and management were so used to it that they would generally reopen for business that night.
In June Judy Garland, a very important cultural icon who the gay community strongly identified with, passed away. Many of the Stonewall customers were still in a great deal of grief the night a particular raid occurred, although it is not known if their emotional state is the true cause of the riots. In this raid, on June 28, 1969, the patrons refused to act passively. This night, the management was not tipped off that a raid was going to happen and this raid occurred at 1:20AM, unlike others that occurred much earlier. Eight officers entered the bar. Most customers avoided being arrested being that on this night the only ones arrested were those without ID, cross-dressers, and most of the employees. A transwoman threw a bottle at a police officer after being prodded with his nightstick and it all went downhill from there. Chaos broke out in the crowd which easily overtook the police. Bottles and stones were thrown and fights ensued. The crowd that eventually formed is said to be over 2000 with over 400 police officers. Tactical Patrol Force eventually arrived to disperse the crowd. They failed and were sprayed with rocks and other objects. The scene eventually died down that night, but the crowd returned the next night until 4AM. There was a third riot four days later, with a crowd of over a thousand people. Voices were finally rising with rage and anger against the way police have treated gay people for decades.
These once silenced voices are no longer quieted. The Gay Liberation Movement began through the few already existing organizations. The Gay Liberation Front could been seen in cities and universities everywhere and similar organizations were created around the globe. The next year, in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, the GLF held a march from Downtown NYC to Uptown. Nearly 10,000 men and women attended. This is why many gay pride celebrations choose June to hold their parades and events. The Stonewall Riots, also known as “The Hairpin Drop Heard Round the World”, are one of the main sparks that brought everyone out of the dark and brought out their pride. Today, April 26, 2006, is the Day of Silence that this school recognized last year and brought up quite the drama. It is a day that recognizes the silence towards injustices towards GLBT people. It asks, “What will you do to end the silence?” Stonewall was one of the first voices raised.