Stonewall '69: Gay Americans Take A Stand In The Free Love Era

By | November 29, 2016

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Left: The 1969 Stonewall Inn raid, a tense scene between patrons and police on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Right: Exterior of the Stonewall on Pride Day 2016. Sources: NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images; Wikimedia Commons

The passionate causes of the late 1960s weren't limited to the anti-war movement and feminism -- gay Americans were protesting for their rights as well. In New York City, the gay scene thrived despite intolerance and harassment on a daily basis. On June 28, 1969, in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Riot or Stonewall Uprising broke out when fed-up gay bar patrons decided the cops had pushed them too far. This moment was the birth of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. 

The fight for gay rights can be traced back to 1924 when the earliest known gay rights organization was formed. Twenty-seven years later the first national gay rights organization was formed by Harry Hay who is considered to be the founder of the gay rights movement. It wasn’t until 1969 when it the movement really gained momentum.

Second Class Citizens

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Openly gay establishments were on thin ice in 1969, due to the many laws prohibiting homosexuality in public. In New York, almost every gay establishment was regularly raided resulting in it being shut down. One such gay bar was the Stonewall Inn, located on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Like many of the other businesses the Stonewall Inn was in violation of city laws because it served its gay customers alcohol. On June 28th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn. The standard procedure in such raids was to have customers lined up in order to check identification. Unfortunately for those without I.D., those who were dressed in drag, women who were not dressed in a feminine manner, employees and management of the bar, they were arrested. This time around the Stonewall Inn raid was different.