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Stonewall Rebellion

by Ed (GLBTPI)
The Stonewall Inn, (named after the Confederate General 'Stonewall' Jackson), was a gay bar (said to be sleazy and Mafia-run) at 51-53 Christopher Street just east of Sheridan Square in New York's Greenwich Village. On the night of 27-28th. June, 1969, a police inspector and seven other officers from the Public Morals Section of the First Division of the New York City Police Department arrived shortly after midnight, served a warrant charging that alcohol was being sold without a license, and announced that employees would be arrested.

The patrons were ejected from the bar by the police while others lingered outside to watch, and were joined by passersby. The arrival of the paddy wagons changed the mood of the crowd from passivity to defiance. The first vehicle left without incident apart from catcalls from the crowd. The next individual to emerge from the bar was a woman in male costume who put up a struggle which galvanized the bystanders into action. The crowd erupted into throwing cobblestones and bottles. Some officers took refuge in the bar while others turned a fire hose on the crowd. Police reinforcements were called and in time the streets were cleared. During the day the news spread, and the following two nights saw further violent confrontations between the police and gay people.

The event was important less for its intrinsic character than for the significance subsequently bestowed on it. The Stonewall Rebellion was a spontaneous act of resistance to the police harassment that had been inflicted on the homosexual community since the inception of the modern vice squad in metropolitan police forces. It sparked a new, highly visible, mass phase of political organization for gay rights that far surpassed, semi-clandestine homophile movement of the 1950s and 1960s, exemplified by the Mattachine Society. The Mattachine Society newsletter described the rebellion as 'the hairpin drop heard round the world'. Gay movements expanded into the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), Gay Activists Alliance, and many other groups.

The event has been commemorated by a parade held each year in New York City on the last Sunday in June, following a tradition that began with the first march on 29th. June, 1970, and by parallel events throughout the United States.

Some sensibilities might be bruised if it were not mentioned that 27th. June, 1969 was the day of the funeral of Judy Garland (Frances Gumm, 1922-69), American actor, singer, and gay icon. She had died on 22nd. June. This had cast a pall over the community and many gay bars in Greenwich Village were draped in black as a sign of respect. Many gay men had queued the previous day to see her lying in state at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home.

The Stonewall drag queens were listed at number 44 in the top 500 lesbian and gay heroes in The Pink Paper, 26th. September, 1997, issue 500, page 19. Judy Garland did not appear anywhere in The Pink Paper's list.

In March 2000 the Stonewall Inn was declared a national historical landmark, and one of the three percent of US landmarks deemed to be of national importance. Andrew Dolkart, historian at Columbia University, was quoted as saying 'It's a key site in 20th century history'.

While the Stonewall Rebellion was a stepping stone to GLBT Pride and Freedom this was only one event that took place in the struggle for our freedom to be who we are. And as a group of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Open Minded People we still have a long road ahead of us, but with the actions taken by those at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 they have set the freedoms we now tack for granted.

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