US History AP
June 2, 2014
Stonewall Riots: Low Key Compliance to Militant Fury
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Directly from the preamble of the
Declaration of Independence, these words, written over two-hundred years ago, strived for
equality in all of mankind. Two hundred years later in the 1970s and 1980s, the issue of
equality was still extremely prominent. By the 1970s, the LGBT movement existed in the
United States and in other countries all around the world. The efflorescence of "sexual
expression" did not start until the Stonewall Inn riots. Support for LGBT individuals in society
increased as a direct result of the riots.
The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City was not originally a gay bar.
The 1960s saw the bar owned by the Mafia. When the Stonewall Inn opened its doors to gay
people, drag queens, and homeless youth, it was one of the very few bars to do so. Prior to
Stonewall, gay people had founded a very small political movement for their rights (Carter 8).
Throughout the 1960s, police raids in gay bars was very common. The Stonewall Inn was an
ideal place for a police raid. It was located in a very large gay ghetto of Greenwich Village. The
bar could be easily be traveled to from the big cities. In terms of publicizing raids, public
telephones were readily available on the streets to notify press (Carter 256).
On the night of 28, 1969, police raided the Inn. "The cops had gone into the back room
and started pushing people out", one participant in the raid explained (Carter 136). Other
sources have said that the police were not harsh at all; that they simply asked the people in the
bar to leave (Marcus 191). The majority of sources and participants say that the police were
brutal and used unnecessary force. The police are said to have physically pushed gay men out
of the Inn and out into the street into Christopher Park across the street. Many individuals in the
bar were not used to this kind of police brutality. It was against the law to serve a drink to a
known homosexual and it was illegal for same-sex couples to hold hands or dance together. The
police claimed that the bar was operating without a license. The men from inside the bar were
infuriated at the police and took action. From across the street, garbage was thrown at the
police, as well as coins. Yelling could be heard coming from inside and outside the Inn (Carter
256). Writer Allen Ginsberg commented on the situation, "…the guys there were so beautiful.
They've lost that wounded look that fags had ten years ago." (Spencer 366).
News of the riots, in the first few weeks after, was not a major topic. It was not until a
few weeks after the riots that news started to spread. People started to hear about how
homosexuals were being treated and many decided to take action. There was a great...