Stonewall Inn was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City in 1969, known famously for its drag performers and as a safe space for sexual and gender minorities to gather. It was very common during this time for police raids to occur in gay bars across the state of New York, largely due to homosexuality being considered a “criminal offense” and bars operating without liquor licenses (it was illegal to serve a gay person alcohol until 1966). Police raids were common occurrences across the U.S. during this time, with specific targets set on bars that had a reputation for gathering queer individuals.
During the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, plainclothes officers of the NYPD served a [questionable] search warrant to investigate an alleged illegal sale of alcohol. The officers interrogated patrons, targeting and detaining “cross-dressers” for arrest (it was illegal to wear more three items of “gender-inappropriate” clothing in NY in 1969).
Released patrons and onlookers, as well as others from the LGBTQIA+ community quickly caught word of the events and gathered outside of the Stonewall Inn. It was common for female officers to take “suspected cross-dressers” to the bathroom to “check their sex.” The Greenwich Village neighborhood was fed up, and after an officer was seen hitting a lesbian female over the head as he forced her into a patrol car, the crowd had had enough. Protestors began throwing items at the police and yelling obscenities. The events quickly turned violent and destructive, and lasted for five more days.
As a result of this large public outrage and uprising, many activist groups were formed to assist LGBTQIA+ individuals with gaining equal rights and respect, not only in New York, but across the country and the world.
One year later, on June 28, 1970, the very first gay pride marches took place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to honor and remember the protests at Stonewall Inn. This day was celebrated annually across the U.S. and eventually grew to a week and soon a month-long celebration of Gay Pride and gender/sexual minority celebration.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton officially designated June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, in recognition of Stonewall Uprising and LGBTQIA+ activism through the years.
In 2009, President Barack Obama renamed the month to a more inclusive Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. And in 2016, President Obama designated Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and surrounding streets and sidewalks a national monument in recognition of the area’s contributions to gay rights.
Stay tuned for more informative blog posts to celebrate Pride all month long!