The Stonewall Riots had a huge impact on LGBT+ history, and some people say were the starting point in changing laws and legislation which discriminated against the community. Whether you’re LGBT+ or an amazing ally, here’s five points our team think everyone should know about the riots and their legacy.
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Raids on LGBT+ gathering places were common in 1969
In 1969, when the riots took place, there were very few places LGBT+ people could be open about their sexuality or gender identity as “homosexual acts” were against the law. Many people were arrested for being in a gay relationship, or expressing their gender identity; most people were fined, but some were sent to prison, and even received life sentences. Because of these laws the police regularly raided pubs and clubs known to be LGBT+ friendly venues. The Stonewall itself had been raided many times before; customers and staff had accepted this is as part of their life. But this all changed on June 28th 1969, when the community decided to fight back against this unfair treatment.
The riots lasted for 6 days
The riots started just after midnight when police officer raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City. As the police began making arrests, the customers started to resist and push back; the crowd moved outside the bar and began to throw rocks, bottles and coins at the police. Over the next five days the riots continued, some were violent clashes with police; others were simply the community showing that they would not back down and included people dancing in front of police lines and singing together to be heard.
The Police issued an official apology for the riots in 2019
Just before the 50th anniversary of the riots, the New York City Police Department issued a public statement about the riots, the statement detailed the work that had been done to bring the police and local communities together; and spoke of the differences in policing 50 years ago compared with modern day. Many people felt that the statement didn’t accept any responsibility for the riots nor recognise that the police action at the time was wrong. This was recognised by the New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who took it upon himself to write and release a statement apologising on behalf of the department. His statement was personal and directly stated that “the actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong—plain and simple.”
The site of the uprising is now a national monument
In 1999 the U.S. National Park Service placed the Stonewall Inn on the American National Register of Historic Places, and in 2016 President Obama made the site of the Stonewall uprising a national monument. The monument includes the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and the surrounding streets; and is the first US national monument dedicated to LGBT+ rights and communities. The National Park Service also started a charity to raise funds to pay for rangers to care for the monument, a visitors center and community activities and art installations to continue to educate people about LGBT+ rights. Later, in 2017 a rainbow flag was raised on the monument, making it the first officially maintained LGBT flag in the USA!
The riots were the inspiration for the first ever pride march
One year after the riots LGBT+ communities gathered outside the Stonewall Inn to hold a march commemorating the riots. A member of the planning committee for the march came up with the official march chant “say it loud, gay is proud”. From there on there have been 50 years of pride parades and marches, with more cities, towns and communities hosting Pride each year.