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The Stonewall Riots – A Movement for Civil Rights LGBTQ

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In New York City’s Greenwich Village, located blocks away from Manhattan, remains a landmark known for the beginning of the LGBTQ civil rights movement: The Stonewall riots. Besides the pub itself, the “Village” was known for being the epicenter for the gay community in New York City. Beginning in the early 1950s, after the second world war, LGBTQ writers and journalists who resided in the Village published controversial articles that left the rest of America more segregated than ever. In the late 1960s however, The Stonewall Inn became a place where hundreds of gay, bisexual, and transgender women would pack inside every night to find an escape from the harassment of non-inclusive Americans. To some, Although the bar itself was known to be revolting with hand-printed windows and dirty pint glasses, The Stonewall Inn was a place for comfort, love, acceptance, and most importantly, a home. However, the quiet New York City neighborhood went from being quiet to violent on the summer night of June 27, 1969.

After a long week of working (while hiding their true identities), members of the LGBTQ crowded the brick walls and barstools inside The Stonewall Inn on Friday, June 27, 1969. Just like any other bar or pub, the jukebox was on repeat and drinks were being tossed out from the back of the bar to celebrate the weekend forthcoming. Blocks away from The Stonewall Inn, a group of law enforcement were preparing to raid and take over the building, destroying a safe space for hundreds of the LGBTQ community. As a part of the Manhattan’s First Division of Public Morals, inspector Seymour Pine led investigations of “organized crime, financial corruption, pornography, and prostitution” (Poehlmann 6). Ultimately, the Division of Public Morals was created to prevent gangsters from committing crimes against society and any lewd behavior from an emerging gay community.

Under the direction of Mr. Pine, The Stonewall Inn had been suspected of being ran by a local, inner-city mafia. Moreover, The Stonewall Inn was claimed to not have a liquor license either. Because of this, officer Pine and his entourage stormed into the Stonewall on June 24, 1969, just days before the riots occurred. After seizing and liquor in the building, he requested a warrant to knock out the bar completely. Officer Pine requested that he and his unit withhold any sales and even rip out the bar in its entirety. Mr. Pine’s ultimate goal was to leave The Stonewall Inn completely bare. By encountering the gay community multiple times before, he thought no violence or disorderly conduct would happen since the LGBTQ community had virtually no rights to protect their “crimes” of lewd behavior. Little did he know that the hundreds of man and women in The Stonewall Inn finally had enough of his raids and harassment. (Poehlmann 4-7; Fademan 170-173).

Around one o’clock in the morning, the single light on the roof of The Stonewall Inn blazed its whiteness above the crowd, signaling that the police were outside. The gay patrons inside hustled quietly towards the back of the bar, awaiting the police to enter while some managed to escape outside in fear of being arrested. If one were to get arrested, it was likely that the public exposure would ruin their social lives for good. Maria Ritter, a Stonewall regular explained on the night of June 27th, 1969, of having the “biggest fear [of getting] arrested.” She also testified, “My second biggest fear is that my picture would be in a newspaper or on a television report in my mother’s dress!” (Poehlmann 11). For those who were not so lucky and got arrested by police, strip searches were common since cross-dressing was illegal in New York.

During the riots, the gay community fought back against the strip searches by shoving the police unit and shouting out their hurtful slurs against them. Officer Pine was reported to notice the escalation inside the bar and allowed those with legal identification to leave the scene immediately. Others were ordered to remain, not knowing if they were going to be arrested or not. For those who continued to stay outside of the bar, a different crowd filled with love, but yet fear continued to dance the night away in the sidewalks of 7th Avenue and Christopher Street. These unforgivable actions, as said by society in the 1960s, caused a mass presence of police who later, arrested all of the lingering transgender people inside of The Stonewall Inn. When walked out of the building by police, the gay community standing outside began to express their outrage with violence against the law enforcement, stating its unfairness and discrimination.

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