The Stonewall Riots and Gay Pride


Hailey Holmberg, Staff Writer

Why is pride month such a huge deal for the LGBTQ Community? Why are there organized parades and celebrations for this group of people? What have they done to gain this kind of recognition and celebration? Many LGBTQ people and allies of the community will simply say “the first pride was a riot.” What does this mean? These riots being referred to are famously known as the Stonewall Riots. In the late 1960’s it was common for police to raid gay bars and clubs in attempt to shut them down as it was illegal in every state except Illinois to have gay employees or serve goods to gay people. On June 24, 1969, police arrived at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located on 53 Christopher Street, New York City and confiscated the stash of alcohol and arrested some of the employees for operating without a proper liquor license, which was illegal for gay people to have. 

Just past midnight on June 28, 1969, the air was hot and sticky when police arrived undercover at the Stonewall Inn, hoping to close the bar permanently. They began arresting employees and drag queens, because it was illegal to cross dress in New York City at the time. A crowd of people formed around the bar as more police began arriving to load up people who were deemed “criminals” under the laws of the time. After police became aggressive with a woman dressed in masculine attire, the crowd became wild, shouting names toward the officers out of disgust. They began throwing pennies before other objects. While it is unknown who threw the first brick due to the chaos of the night, many believe it was a transgender woman and activist by the name of Marsha P. Johnson.

People began slashing the tires of the police cars and the police barricaded themselves inside of the Stonewall Inn. The rioters made efforts to get inside of the bar to stand their ground. Around 4 o’clock in the morning, things began to settle down and the crowd dispersed. No casualties were reported on this night, to many people’s surprise. The Stonewall Inn was reopened without liquor before dark struck again that night. Supporters of the riots arrived to protest causing the police to arrive once again in order to restore peace. The rioters endured beatings and tear gas and the riot continued once again until the early hours of the morning. Calmer riots continued each night for several rights to enhance the movement. This was not the beginning of the gay rights movement. This was, however, a large step up for the gay community which has led equality in a positive direction. LGBTQ people found themselves in a community where they felt safe, especially when they had nowhere else to turn.

On June 28, 1970, the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, thousands of people gathered in front of the Stonewall Inn and marched about fifteen blocks as more people joined. This was the kick off for the first Gay Pride Week. Many other large cities held marches and parades during the week as well. This became an annual tradition in which the LGBTQ community can reflect on their progress and continue to push for rights and fight discrimination. It is still a crime to be gay in many countries, and many discriminate against people of the LGBTQ community unfairly. Pride is a celebration as well as a fight for equality.