We’ve seem to have forgotten that our power lies in protest!
On April 13, 1970, a group of approximately 300 gay rights activists gathered outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to protest an event being hosted by Mayor John Lindsay. The event was a fundraiser for the Cultural Council Foundation, an organization that supported cultural programs in the city.
The protesters, who were members of the newly formed Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), were there to draw attention to the discrimination and violence that the gay community faced in the city. They were also calling for an end to police harassment and the repeal of discriminatory laws, such as those that criminalized homosexual behavior.
The GAA had organized the protest in response to Lindsay’s decision to veto a bill that would have prohibited discrimination against gay people in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The bill, which had been passed by the New York City Council, was seen as a major step forward for gay rights, but Lindsay had vetoed it on the grounds that it would be difficult to enforce and would create more problems than it solved.
The protesters, who had gathered in front of the museum, were met by a large contingent of police officers who were there to maintain order. Despite the police presence, the protest was largely peaceful, with demonstrators holding signs and chanting slogans like “Gay is Good” and “Equal Rights Now”.
At one point, tensions escalated when a group of protesters tried to enter the museum to confront Lindsay directly. The police intervened, using force to prevent the protesters from entering the building. Several people were injured in the ensuing scuffle, and dozens were arrested.
The protest, while barely remembered today had a significant impact on the gay rights movement. It brought national attention to the issues facing the community and helped to galvanize support for the fight for equal rights. It also highlighted the growing militancy of the gay rights movement and the increasing willingness of activists to confront those in power directly.
The protest did have an impact on Lindsay. Although he remained opposed to the anti-discrimination bill, he later acknowledged that the protest had made him more aware of the issues facing the gay community and had prompted him to take a more active role in advocating for their rights.
In 1972, in response to the unrelenting pressure, Lindsay at last signed an executive order prohibiting city agencies from discriminating against job candidates based on sexual orientation.
Today, the protest serves as a reminder of the struggle that LGBT people have faced to gain equal rights and the importance of activism in achieving social change. Something that is sorely missed in today’s LGBTQIA+ community.
*Photo above – GAA member Marty Robinson detained by police at the MMA April 13, 1970