Have you ever wondered why a majority of pride events are near the end of June? Well, the answer is the riots at the Stonewall Inn. In honor of this, we at Jecca Blac dedicate this blog post to the history of the Stonewall Riots, and by extension, Pride Festivals everywhere.
Last Friday was the fiftieth anniversary of an important event in LGBTQ+ history. On June 28, 1969, the police decided to raid a notorious gay bar in New York City, the Stonewall Inn. This was a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the U.S., and so there were very few places that welcomed openly LGBTQ+ people. As the police were removing patrons and alcohol from the building, a group of bystanders began to congregate around the commotion. A riot broke out after a woman began to fight against the police. As she looked out into the crowd, it’s claimed that she asked, “Why don’t you guys do something?”, which was the call to action that the crowd needed.
Two important figure in the riots were Stormé DeLarverie and Marsha P. Johnson, who was also known as the Mayor of Christopher Street (where the Stonewall Inn was located). Stormé was a butch lesbian who, according to herself and many eyewitnesses, was the woman whose actions started the riots. Marsha was a local drag queen who was believed to be gender non-conforming. She moved to the city in her late teens and frequented the Stonewall Inn after they began to let in drag queens. On the second night of the riots, many say they remember Marsha climbing a lamppost to drop a bag of bricks on a police car, shattering its front windshield.
After the first riot occurred, a number of things happened both in New York and around the world. A number of riots and protests continued in the area for days due to the coverage that was provided by the local newspapers. Many people saw it as a call for freedom; the first time where they could show their pride in public. Within the first six months after the riots, two gay activist groups and three different LGBTQ+ magazines were been established in NYC. On the first anniversary of the riots, the first pride parades happened in NYC, LA, San Francisco, and Chicago. London’s first Pride Festival was two years later, in 1972.
Where would we be if the Stonewall riots would have never happened? As we gear up for London Pride on July 6, let us remember the leaps and bounds we have come to get here and honor the ones who create change before us. Today, pride events are becoming more and more frequent, but unfortunately, homosexuality is still illegal in many places around the world. Let us celebrate all the progress we have made as a community, but not forget to fight against the injustice that is still happening around the world.