Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall Riots 

            A brief history of US Homosexual oppression in from 1945-1959.

Following WW II, most gay establishments that had popped up during the war closed down with the return of troops from overseas.

The “nuclear family” received heavy promotion from the government as an inexplicable reaction to the Cold War.

HUAC led to the loss of thousands of jobs held by homosexuals in the federal government.

In D.C. alone, over 1000 arrests each year for homosexual acts.

Local papers in every state published lists of those arrested along with their workplace, resulting in termination for many involved.

1948:  Mattachine Society formed by Harry Hay.  This organization encouraged identification of homosexuals as ‘normal’ citizens who preferred to have same sex relationships.

1952 – DSM III defined homosexuality as a pathological hidden fear of the opposite sex that was caused by traumatic parent-child relationship


New York prelude:

Entrapment in early 1960s under Robert F. Wagner, Jr.

–       purchasing a drink or leaving the bar with officers.

John Lindsay stopped entrapment, but…

–       NY State Liquor Authority continued to use its powers to target homosexual establishments

Stonewall Inn:

Mafia owned – Genovese Family

Frequent raids in Greenwich Village before riot.

June 28, 1969

–       uncorroborated link to Judy Garland death.

–       2:00 AM raid.

–       Lineup patrons, check IDS, identify those claiming to be females by checking anatomy (done by female officers).

–       200 patrons

–       Non cooperation by transvestites led to rebellion by men.

–       People gathered outside bar.

–       “Dyke – Stone Butch” tried to escape, hit with billy club for claiming cuffs too tight, thrown into paddywagon, riot breaks out.

–       Folk Singer Von Rank and several other individuals were forcibly barricaded with police in the Stonewall Inn in an attempt to avoid being harmed after 500-600 in crowd started pelting them with coins and debris.

–       “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t” – Michael Fader

–       Homeless youth

–       Tactical Police Force arrives to free those trapped.  The Tactical Police Force was a precursor to the modern SWAT teams armed with shields and truncheons.

–       Transvestites led charge against police.

–       “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We don’t wear underwear/ We show our pubic hairs”


On the 29th, the events essentially repeated although the Tactical Police Force arrived earlier, ~2:00 AM

–       Ginsberg: “Gay power! Isn’t that great!… It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves”

–       “You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago”

Mattachine Society

Upset at the nature of revolt, “screaming queens forming chorus lines and kicking went against everything that I wanted people to think about homosexuals … that we were a bunch of drag queens in the Village acting disorderly and tacky and cheap.”

Village Voice:

– Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott, that included unflattering descriptions of the events and its participants: “forces of faggotry,” “limp wrists” and “Sunday fag follies”.

– Within six months of the Stonewall riots, activists started a city-wide newspaper called Gay; they considered it necessary because the most liberal publication in the city—The Village Voice—refused to print the word “gay” in GLF advertisements seeking new members and volunteer

Led to first homosexual alliances to openly use the word Gay in their name:

Gay Liberation Front

Annual Gay Pride March in NYC (oldest Gay Pride March) – Still called a march (not a parade) until equal rights are guaranteed for homesexuals.


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