- Any mention of the LGBTQ pride movement in the US will no doubt include the Stonewall Inn.
- The Stonewall riots in 1969 are considered to be the turning point of the LGBTQ movement that led to June pride celebrations today.
- As the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising approaches, here’s what really happened before, during, and after the riots.
- Read more stories like this on Business Insider.
With June come rainbows. They’re waving on flags, making the rounds on social media, and are plastered across t-shirts, mug, tote bags, and every other conceivable item of merchandise. The colorful symbol of LGBTQ pride and its national month have come a long way since the social movement of the 1970s.
The month of June has officially signified LGBTQ pride in the US since President Bill Clinton first declared it "Gay & Lesbian Pride Month" in 1999 and 2000. But June has been the month of LGBTQ pride marches and celebrations in commemoration of the Stonewall Inn riots since 1970, the year after the riots commenced.
The Stonewall uprising has taken on an almost mythical reputation in the LGBTQ community and among allies during Pride month. Here’s what actually happened leading up to that fateful night, and how the pride movement was shaped by those at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.
The riots at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 were not the first time LGBTQ people protested for their rights, but it did mark a turning point in the activist movement that led to future successes.
In the decade prior to the Stonewall uprising, the LGBTQ movement attained heightened public visibility and was boosted by an environment full of other social movements that intersected with LGBTQ rights, including the Black power movement, second-wave feminism, and Vietnam war protests.
In 1950, the gay rights movement in the US officially organized with the founding of the Mattachine Society in LA, and groups for LGBTQ people – who at that time were broadly referred to as gay people – sprung up in other cities.
There were also multiple public confrontations between the LGBTQ community and police forces, including at Cooper Do-Nuts in LA in 1959, at a fundraiser for the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in San Francisco in 1965, and at the Black Cat Tavern in LA in 1967.
In the midst of these movements, the Stonewall Inn opened in 1967 as a “private” gay club, owned by a member of the Mafia known as "Fat Tony" Lauria.
Walter Leporati/Getty Images
It was one of the few known gay clubs in Greenwich Village where patrons could dance, and at the time it was one of the largest gay clubs in the US. It did not have a liquor license.
The term "private" means that, not unlike today, a bouncer guarded the club. The entry fee to Stonewall in 1969 was $1 on weekdays and $3 on weekends, and patrons had to sign a club register, where people often used fake or joking names.
Patrons of the Stonewall Inn usually included homeless LGBTQ teens, trans women of color, lesbians, drag queens, and gay men.
At around 1:20 AM on June 28, 1969, police forces raided the Stonewall Inn.
Photo by PA Images via Getty Imagesv
Raids on gay clubs were common since it was illegal to serve alcoholic beverages in "disorderly" environments and having a group of gay patrons counted as being disorderly.
Patrons and managers were usually arrested selectively, with cash registers and alcohol impounded and front doors padlocked. Management of gay bars and clubs typically bribed officers, members of the Mafia, and State Liquor Authority officials for advance warnings of when these raids would occur.
Sometimes, management of gay bars and clubs would turn on the dance floor lights ahead of a raid, so that gay patrons would stop dancing together or showing each other signs of affection, which could have led to being arrested.
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