Saturday, 4 July 2009

40 years since Stonewall


I am writing two posts in one day, as I have just remembered that today is the day of loads of pride events. The biggest being London pride and is close to the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
As you may have seen I am a supporter of Stonewall and everything it does in it's campaign for equality and equal rights. However I'm not sure everyone knows how it got it's name. Or if you do I won't have anything to write about so put up with me. Please...
Well stonewall is named after a rioting event that took place in and around the Stonewall inn in 1969. Where the police raided the stonewall in in the early hours of that morning and, then later on in the evening the community who went there fought back against the police. This moment is widely believed to be the start of the gay rights equality movement.
Before this really from 1945 onwards, members of the LGBT community were subject to wide spread intolerance and unacceptance from many. Homosexuality at this time was still officially classified as a mental illness! Which many still believed could be cured. Although the “cures” were often brutal forms of punishment that bordered on torture. Meanwhile in England things were not much different, Alan Turing who I mentioned in an earlier post was subject to a supposed “cure”.
Anyway back in 1969 the stonewall inn was a small-ish gay bar in New York city. Where LGBT men and women could congregate. However on 28th June 1969 the police decided to raid the building.
So in the early hours of the mourning the NYPD raided the building and forced all the people outside on to the street. The police were instructed to arrest any men dressed as women on sight. And take them down the local station. When the police van varied a crowd of people had swelled outside the stonewall. Who then proceeded to throw beer cans and coins at the police van. This quickly turned into wide spread hostility from the crowd. Which the police repaid with violence as they attempted to disperse the protesters.
By 4.00 in the morning most of the streets had been cleared. 13 people were arrested, several hospitalized and a few police officers were injured. Also the inside of the Stonewall inn was left completely smashed.
In the aftermath of the Stonewall riots local activists set up a paper titled “Gay” , a title they deemed necessary after most publications refused to print the word Gay in there papers. Later in 1970 to mark the one year anniversary of the riots, a Gay pride march took place covering the 51 blocks to Central Park. Then in 1971 similar pride marches took place across the USA and in London.
After this the Stonewall charity was set up, with an English version as well that still campaigns for equality.
Of course there is still a long way to go before everyone Gay,straight, black, white, of any faith or creed is accepted but thanks to the work of people like Stonewall and countless others we are at least one step closer.

Incidentally today is the London and I think Derby pride day!


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