The Stonewall Rebellion of New York City

The Stonewall Rebellion of New York City

Kaeden Wise

A routine NYPD raid of the local LGBTQ+ club, the Stonewall Inn, occurred on June 28th, 1969. The Stonewall Riots, or Stonewall Rebellion, were six days of protesting in response to the blatant homophobia the officers were inflicting on them and the raids of multiple, specifically LGBTQ+ clubs. These LGBTQ+ riots were the blueprint for riots in this day and age. The Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia, as were the majority of gay clubs in America at the time. 

During the morning of the raid, about 200 LGBTQ+ residents were inside of Stonewall. Around 2 a.m., the New York Police Department arrived and demanded that everyone leave. At first, almost everybody cooperated and waited outside. After forcing everyone out, officers began demanding to see identification and female officers would escort transgender individuals into the bathrooms to confirm that they were cisgender women, which led to the arrest of multiple of them. After spotting the NYPD arresting LGBTQ+ individuals, the people forced to leave and wait outside became enraged. As more officers in patrol vehicles approached the scene, they began shouting, “Gay Power!”, and, “We Shall Overcome!”, simultaneously. Rioters began throwing pennies and empty bottles at patrol vehicles, screaming, “Pigs!”, and slashing patrol vehicle tires. One woman (thought to be lesbian activist, Storme Delarverie) who was arrested, was hit over the head with a billy club by a police officer. She encouraged the crowd by telling them to, “Do Something!”, and instantly Stonewall escalated into a full-blown riot. Officers and a few prisoners tried to shield themselves from all the aggravation by barricading themselves inside Stonewall. Rioters used a parking meter as a battering ram as others made firebombs with bottles, matches, and lighter fluid, then began setting the club on fire as concerned bystanders called the fire department, who put out the fire and rescued the people inside. 

At 4 a.m. on June 28th, 1969, the police vans and squad cars retreated to drop prisoners off at the Sixth Precinct. Sirens started getting closer and closer as more officers arrived as well as squadrons of the Tactical Police Force(TPF), the city’s riot police. As helmeted officers marched towards the riot, protesters ran away, circled around them, and came back behind the officers. Sometime after 4:30 a.m, things managed to settle down. No one was critically injured or passed away on the first night, though some officers did report minor injuries. Despite being wrecked by the NYPD, Stonewall Inn opened before dark the next night. As the night went on, more and more LGBTQ+ individuals or allies showed up, chanting, “Gay Power!”, and, “We Shall Overcome”. Once again, officers made their way down to Stonewall, bringing an even larger group of TPF who beat and tear-gassed the crowd. This continued until early morning when the crowd gave up. Over the next couple of nights, gay rioters continued to protest near Stonewall, taking advantage of the moment to spread information. By July 2nd, Village Voice, an NYC newspaper, released a specific print that struck a nerve for the LGBTQ+ community. Protesters huddled outside the paper’s office, some screaming to burn the building down. When police pushed back, rioting started up once again but only lasted until midnight. 

On June 28th, 1970, the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, gay activists gathered in New York for the Christopher Street Liberation March to cap off the city’s first Gay Pride Week. As thousands of people began marching up 6th Avenue shouting, “Say it loud, gay is proud!”, allies from the crowd walked behind. The event eventually stretched 15 city blocks, surrounding everyone around. As of now, The Stonewall Inn still stands in New York City and is known as a National Historic Landmark. Many LGBTQ+ individuals will go there to feel welcomed and invited and often describe their visit as warm and loving with very kind employees. In 2016, former-President Barack Obama declared that Stonewall Inn would become a national landmark for one of the biggest LGBTQ+ riots and the National Park Service saw to this. Today, marchers in New York City during Pride Month are in the millions. Since 1970, we have celebrated Pride Month every year in June to fight for equal rights and the Stonewall Inn riots every year on June 28th, in honor of everyone who fought for liberty and justice for everyone. Stonewall Inn now represents not only a safe space for anyone struggling with feeling accepted, but also represents the hardships and struggles the LGBTQ+ community faced, continues to face, and how much progress we’ve made since the riots.