Tag Archives: 1969

#PRIDE2021 – June 28, 1969: The True and Unadulterated History of the Stonewall Riots

In 1969 the world was a very different place. 

The Vietnam war was in full swing and its bloody images were televised into peoples living rooms each night on the nightly news. Over 45,000 american soldiers were dead. The counterculture of hippies, yippies, and anti-war protestors mostly young people flocked to major  cities like San Francisco and New York City to escape the draft, their parents,  and moral contructs.

New York City itself was a melting pot of millions of different kinds of people.  But none were looked down upon as much and had to hide than  gay men, lesbians, and other so-called “sexual deviants” of that era.

Greenwich Village at that time was a haven for outcasts in 1969 and was home to  thousands of  artists, actors, bohemians, beatniks, runaways, and mostly blue collar workers.

The original Stonewall Inn was located at 51 and 53 Christopher Street. (Only 53 Christopher Street is used today and the other side of the original bar sits vacant.)  And what many people do not know is that it was owned by the infamous Genovese mafia crime family.

In 1966, three members of the Genovese family invested $3,500 to turn the Stonewall Inn into a gay bar after it had been a restaurant and a nightclub for heterosexuals. Once a week a NYPD police officer from the 6th Precincts would collect envelopes of cash as a payoff for “protection” to keep the The Stonewall open.  The bar had no liquor license and no running water behind the bar—used glasses were run through tubs of water and immediately reused. There were no fire exits, and the bathrooms were filthy and toilets overran consistently. It was the only bar for gay men and lesbians in New York City where dancing was allowed and that was its main draw since at that time same-sex dancing was illegal and those who were caught doing it were subject to arrest.

in 1969 visitors to the Stonewall Inn were greeted by a bouncer who inspected them through a peephole in the door. The legal drinking age at that time in New York was 18 years old. To avoid unwittingly letting in undercover police who were called “Lily Law”, “Alice Blue Gown”, or “Betty Badge” at the time, visitors would have to be known by the doorman, or be friends with someone who did.  The entrance fee on weekends was $3, for which the customer received two tickets. Patrons were required to sign their names in a book to prove that the bar was a private “bottle club”.  Needless to say customers rarely signed their real names.

A color digital illustration of the station layout of the Stonewall Inn in 1969: a rectangular building with the front along Christopher Street; the entrance opens to a lobby where patrons could go to the larger part of the bar to the right that also featured a larger dance floor. From that room was an entrance to a smaller room with a smaller dance floor and smaller bar. The toilets are located near the rear of the building
                                    Stonewall Inn layout 1969

 

There were two dance floors in the Stonewall Inn and the interior was painted black including the windows making it very dark inside. The only real electrical lights that were on during business hours was a dim light behind the bar and the rest were pulsing gel and black lights. If police were spotted, the bar’s regular white lights were turned on signaling that everyone should stop dancing or touching and that same sex couple should break-up and pair up as male-female couples to avoid arrest.  In the rear of the bar was a smaller room frequented by the few “queens” that were allowed inside; it was one of two bars where effeminate men who wore makeup and teased their hair (though dressed in men’s clothing) could go. Very few transvestites or drag queens were allowed in in by the bouncers. The average age of the bar’s clientele ranged between 18 years old and many closeted gay men in their forties and fifties.  

Police raids on gay bars in the late 1960’s were frequent, but bar management usually knew about the raids in advance due to bribes made to certain police officers. The raids usually occurred early enough in the evening that business could commence after the police had finished.  During a typical raid, the lights were turned on, and customers were lined up and their identification cards checked. Those without identification or dressed in full drag were arrested and others were allowed to leave. Lesbian patrons were required to wear three pieces of feminine clothing, and would be arrested if found not wearing them all

At 1:20 AM on the night of  Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform along with Detective Charles Smythe and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine arrived at the Stonewall Inn’s double doors and announced “Police! We’re taking the place!”  Stonewall employees do not recall being tipped off that a raid was to occur that night, as was the usual custom.

Some have said that one of the reasons that the bar was raided unannounced was that the Mafia owners of the Stonewall and the manager were blackmailing some of their wealthier customers, particularly those who worked in the Financial District and that they were  making more money from extortion than they were from liquor sales in the bar. With the police were unable to receive kickbacks from blackmail and the theft of negotiable bonds (facilitated by pressuring gay Wall Street customers), so the NYPD decided to close the Stonewall Inn permanently. But again this is conjecture and not a proven theory as our history has not been very well documented.

Once inside, the NYPD called for backup from the Sixth Precinct using the bar’s pay phone. The music was turned off and the main lights were turned on. Approximately 205 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused. A few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms, but police barred the doors.

Michael Fader who was at the Stonewall that night:

Things happened so fast you kind of got caught not knowing. All of a sudden there were police there and we were told to all get in lines and to have our identification ready to be led out of the bar.”

Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take any customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested.

But things that night did not go exactly as the NYPD had planned.

The story goes that those dressed with pieces of female attire that night refused to go with the female officer and that men in line-up began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station. After separating those in drag in a room in the back of the bar. Maria Ritter, who was known as Steve to her family, recalled, “My biggest fear was that I would get arrested. My second biggest fear was that my picture would be in a newspaper or on a television report in my mother’s dress! Both patrons and police recalled that a sense of discomfort spread very quickly, spurred by police who began to assault some of the lesbians by “feeling some of them up inappropriately” while frisking them.

The police were to confiscate and transport the bar’s alcohol in patrol wagons. Twenty-eight cases of beer and nineteen bottles of liquor were seized but the patrol wagons had not yet arrived, so patrons were required to wait in line for about 15 minutes.  Those who were not arrested were released and let out the front door, but they did not leave the area quickly as usual. Instead, they stopped outside and a crowd began to grow and watch. Within minutes, between 100 and 150 people had congregated outside. Some after they were released from inside the Stonewall, and some after noticing the police cars and the crowd. Although the police forcefully pushed or kicked some patrons out of the bar, some customers released by the police performed for the crowd by posing and saluting the police in an exaggerated campy fashion. The crowd’s applause encouraged them further: “Wrists were limp, hair was primped, and reactions to the applause were classic.”

When the first patrol wagon arrived the crowd had grown to at least ten times the number of people who were arrested, and they all became very quiet. Confusion over radio communication delayed the arrival of a second wagon. As the police began escorting those from within the bar outside a bystander shouted, “Gay power!”, someone began singing “We Shall Overcome”.  It was then said some pennies, and beer bottles, were thrown at the wagon as a rumor spread through the crowd that patrons still inside the bar were being beaten.

*NOTE: This is where the legend of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson comes in.  It must be stressed that it has never been proven or documented by any of those arrested at the Stonewall Inn, Marsha P. Johnson herself  has claimed that she was the one who told Sylvia about the raid after it started and that neither were at the bar when the riot started and joined in much later.    Sylvia never mentioned being at the Stonewall Inn until well after 20 years after the riot.   In an interview with this website Miss Major Griffin-Gracy a community leader for transgender rights has gone on record as saying that she saw neither Rivera or Johnson in attendance at the bar.  In the face of such evidence and the  lack of any real proof it does make Rivera’s claim about being at the Stonewall Inn at the time of the raid and “throwing the first heel” , brick, pennies, etc. more of the stuff of legends than true historical fact. 

Stonewall 1

It’s been reported that while the NYPD began escorting those arrested out of the bar a scuffle broke out when a lesbian in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon. She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. She had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for, as one witness claimed for complaining that her handcuffs were too tight. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains unknown, (some attribute it to lesbian cross-dresser Stormé DeLarverie)  sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” When  an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the paddy wagon  the crowd went “berserk”:

It was at that moment that the scene became explosive and the fight for our right and freedom

The crowd outside the Stonewall Inn  started to push back at the police who tried to restrain them, the police fought back and  knocked a few people down.  It’s rumored that Storme DeLaverie, a lesbian crossdresser was observed throwing the first punch after being pushed around by a policeman which incited bystanders even more. Some of those handcuffed in the wagon escaped when police left them unattended  As the crowd tried to overturn the police wagon, two police cars and the wagon left immediately, with Inspector Pine urging them to return as soon as possible. The commotion attracted more people who learned what was happening. Someone in the crowd declared that the bar had been raided because “they didn’t pay off the cops”, to which someone else yelled “Let’s pay them off!”  Beer cans were thrown and the police lashed out, dispersing some of the crowd, who found a construction site nearby with stacks of bricks. The few police at that point were surrounded by between 500 and 600 people, and grabbed grabbed several people, in the crowd including folk singer Dave Van Ronk —who had been attracted to the commotion from a bar two doors away from the Stonewall.  Though Van Ronk was not gay, he had experienced police violence when he participated in antiwar demonstrations: “As far as I was concerned, anybody who’d stand against the cops was all right with me” .”Ten police officers—including two policewomen—barricaded themselves, Van Ronk, Howard Smith (a writer for The Village Voice), and several handcuffed detainees inside the Stonewall Inn “for their own safety”.

There are multiple accounts of the riots that night but the one thing that everyone agrees on is what happened from this point was raw, powerful and spontaneous.

Michael Fader:

We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.

Bob Kohler:

And nobody knows who started it and nobody can [know] because you don’t know a riot is going to start, so therefore you’re not looking to see anybody start anything. You hear something. Maybe it’s a bottle break. Maybe it’s a fire in the trashcan and then it’s a riot. So all these bullshit people who are ‘I saw this. I saw that.’ You didn’t see nothing. Well, one thing you didn’t see was drag queens in high heels. I can tell you that. They weren’t there. It was the kids who started it and then the whole street erupted. But it was just – the kids had the best time of their lives. That was fun. And that broke up the week and they were glad when it happened on Wednesday night. And glad when it happened again. And by Saturday night, they still, none of those kids knew because they didn’t have that kind of a mind”.

Garbage cans, garbage, bottles, rocks, and bricks were hurled at the building, breaking the windows.  A parking meter was wretched free from the ground and used as a battering ram on the doors of the Stonewall Inn.  The mob lit garbage on fire and stuffed it through the broken windows as the police grabbed a fire hose. Because it had no water pressure, the hose was ineffective in dispersing the crowd, and seemed only to encourage them.  When demonstrators broke through the windows—which had been covered by plywood—the police inside un-holstered their pistols. The doors flew open and officers pointed their weapons at the angry crowd, threatening to shoot. The Village Voice writer Howard Smith, in the bar with the police, took a wrench from the bar and stuffed it in his pants, unsure if he might have to use it against the mob or the police. He watched someone squirt lighter fluid into the bar; as it was lit and the police took aim, sirens were heard and the  Tactical Police Force (TPF) of the NYPD and firetrucks arrived to free the police trapped inside the Stonewall Inn.

One officer’s eye was cut, and a few others were bruised from being struck by flying debris. Bob Kohler, who was walking his dog by the Stonewall that night, saw the TPF arrive: “I had been in enough riots to know the fun was over…. The cops were totally humiliated. This never, ever happened. They were angrier than I guess they had ever been, because everybody else had rioted … but the fairies were not supposed to riot … no group had ever forced cops to retreat before, so the anger was just enormous. I mean, they wanted to kill.” 

When extra NTPD officers arrived the TPF formed a phalanx and attempted to clear the streets by marching slowly and pushing the crowd back. The mob openly mocked the police. The crowd cheered, started impromptu kick lines, and sang to the tune of The Howdy Doody Show theme song: “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We don’t wear underwear/ We show our pubic hairs”. Just as the line got into a full kick routine, the TPF advanced again and cleared the crowd and sent them screaming down Christopher to Seventh Avenue.

One participant who had been in the Stonewall during the raid recalled, “The police rushed us, and that’s when I realized this is not a good thing to do, because they got me in the back with a night stick”. Another account stated, “I just can’t ever get that one sight out of my mind. The cops with the [nightsticks] and the kick line on the other side. It was the most amazing thing…. And all the sudden that kick line, which I guess was a spoof on the machismo … I think that’s when I felt rage. Because people were getting smashed with bats. And for what? A kick line?”

Craig Rodwell, the once owner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, reported watching police chase the crowds through the crooked streets, only to see them appear around the next corner behind the police. Members of the mob stopped cars, overturning one of them to block Christopher Street. Jack Nichols and Lige Clarke, in their column printed in Screw, declared that “massive crowds of angry protesters chased for blocks screaming, ‘Catch them!’ 

By 4:00 in the morning the streets had nearly been cleared. Many people sat on stoops or gathered nearby in Christopher Park throughout the morning, dazed in disbelief at what had transpired. Many witnesses remembered the surreal and eerie quiet that descended upon Christopher Street, though there continued to be “electricity in the air”. One commented: “There was a certain beauty in the aftermath of the riot…. It was obvious, at least to me, that a lot of people really were gay and, you know, this was our street.” Thirteen people had been arrested. Some in the crowd were hospitalized, and four police officers were injured. Everything in the Stonewall Inn was broken.  Pay phones, toilets, mirrors, jukeboxes, and cigarette machines were all smashed, possibly in the riot and possibly by the police. But despite everything, the Stonewall Inn would open for business again the very next night.

All three New York City newspapers covered the riots; The New York Daily News placed coverage on the front page. News of the riot spread quickly throughout Greenwich Village, All day Saturday, June 28, people came to stare at the burned and blackened Stonewall Inn. Graffiti appeared on appeared on the walls of the bar “They invaded our rights”, “Support gay power”, and “Legalize gay bars”

The next night, rioting again surrounded Christopher Street; participants remember differently which night was more frantic or violent. Many of the same people returned from the previous evening. but they were joined by “police provocateurs”, curious bystanders, and even tourists.  Remarkable to many was the sudden exhibition of homosexual affection in public, as described by one witness: “From going to places where you had to knock on a door and speak to someone through a peephole in order to get in. We were just out. We were in the streets.

Thousands of people had gathered in front of the Stonewall, which had opened again, choking Christopher Street until the crowd spilled into adjoining blocks. The crowd surrounded buses and cars, harassing the occupants unless they either admitted they were gay or indicated their support for the demonstrators. As on the previous evening, fires were started in garbage cans throughout the neighborhood. More than a hundred police were present from the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Precincts, but after 2:00 a.m. the TPF arrived again. Kick lines and police chases waxed and waned; when police captured demonstrators, whom the dallies described as “sissies” or “swishes”, the crowd surged to recapture them. Street battling ensued again until 4:00 a.m

Allen Ginsberg who lived on Christopher Street, but missed the first night of the riot  stated, “Gay power! Isn’t that great!… It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves”, and that night visited the re-opened but in shambles  Stonewall Inn for the first time.”You know, the guys there were so beautiful”said Ginsberg —”they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago”.

Nothing much happened the next two days, Monday and Tuesday, partly due to rain. Police and Village residents had a few altercations, as both groups antagonized each other. Craig Rodwell and his partner Fred Sargeant took the opportunity the morning after the first riot to print and distribute 5,000 leaflets, one of them reading: “Get the Mafia and the Cops out of Gay Bars”. The leaflets called for gays to own their own establishments, for a boycott of the Stonewall and other Mafia-owned bars, and for public pressure on the mayor’s office to investigate the “intolerable situation”.

On Wednesday, however, The Village Voice ran reports of the riots, written by Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott that included unflattering descriptions of the events and its participants: “forces of faggotry,” “limp wrists” and “Sunday fag follies” just to name a few which rekindled the anger all over again.  A mob descended upon Christopher Street once again and threatened to burn down the offices of The Village Voice. Also in the mob of between 500 and 1,000 were other groups that have had unsuccessful confrontations with the police in the past and were curious how they were defeated in this situation. Another explosive street battle took place, with injuries to demonstrators and police alike, with looting in local shops, and arrests of five people. The incidents on Wednesday night lasted about an hour, and were summarized by one witness: “

The word is out. “Christopher Street shall be liberated. The fags have had it with oppression.”

You can read the surviving Stonewall Riots Police Reports HERE

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The Real Heroes of Stonewall Riots: Danny Garvin – The Stonewall Riots In His Own Words (AUDIO)

Danny Garvin

One of the few remaining verified Stonewall riot  participants Danny Garvin sadly passed away at the age of 65 in December of 2014. 

Not long before his unfortunate death Danny Garvin along with fellow Stonewall veteran Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt were interviewed and described that fateful summer night in 1969.

Danny and Tommy have been noted as “the two most knowledgeable sources” on the historic riots by fellow LGBT historian David Carter.

Danny was there the night it opened (on his birthday in 1967) and became a regular customer of the Stonewall Inn,” David Carter said. “He met his first love there by dancing with him, dated the main doorman (Blonde Frankie), and was roommates with one of the men who worked in the coat check. Danny’s knowledge of the club has contributed a lot to a better understanding of the Stonewall Inn. Fortunately, Danny also happened to walk up the street soon after the June 1969 raid began, and his detailed memories of that night significantly add to our knowledge about the Uprising,” Carter added.

“Danny’s life story is all the more remarkable and historically relevant because his experiences mirrored those of his generation as if he were a gay Zelig,” Carter said. “Danny was in a gay hippie commune before Stonewall and he was roommates with gay activist Morty Manford after Stonewall. Morty Manford’s introduction of Danny Garvin and another gay friend to Manford’s parents precipitated Manford’s coming out to his parents. Morty’s mother Jeanne Manford later founded what became Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now PFLAG. He hung out with Andy Warhol’s crowd, and he founded the recovery contingent of LGBT marchers in the LGBT Pride March each June.”

Gay men like Danny Garvin are our true heroes of the riots. They have received little or no recognition while others have been given the glory for Stonewall that they do not deserve because of a certain groups revisionist history to promote their own agenda. Without gay men like Danny Garvin and Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt we would not be where we are today.

You can listen to Danny Garvin and Tommy Lanigan Schmidt in their own words recount what happened that night almost 50 years ago on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn.

Rare 1969 NYPD Footage of the Gay Liberation Front at Anti-War Demonstration [Video & Text]

Rare 1969 NYPD Footage of the Gay Liberation Front at Anti-War Demonstration [Video & Text]

On August 2, 1969 just a little over one month after the Stonewall Riots the newly formed Gay Liberation Front took to the streets of Midtown Manhattan and participated in a rally and march to demand the release of political prisoners and members of the Armed Forces who were being held in military stockades. The focus was on the Fort Dix 38 who were 38 prisoners made up of AWOLs, Vietnam war resisters and conscientious objectors who rose up against deplorable and inhumane conditions at the Army Base stockade in New Jersey.

The three films that NYPD detectives shot are silent and last just over nine minutes altogether. The films were digitized by the city’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives. 

While the detectives did not name GLF in their report the font on the banners, including the interlocked female/ female and male/ male graphics that were GLF’s symbol, are readily recognizable.

Allen Young, who was working for the Liberation News Service in August 1969, recognized Dan Smith and Ralph Hall, two GLF members, in the film. 

NYC’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives shared the films with Gay City News, archivists said they knew only that the film was shot on August 2, 1969.

READ: The First 4 Issues of the Gay Liberation Front's Magazine "Come Out" - 1969/1970

Gay History – READ: The First 4 Issues of the Gay Liberation Front’s Magazine “Come Out” – 1969/1970

Come Out! was the first periodical published by the gay and lesbian community after the Stonewall riots in June, 1969. The Gay Liberation Front, one of the first militant activist gay rights organizations birthed by the riots, published Come Out! from their base in New York City.

For those familiar with the gay rights movement, Stonewall is probably the most oft-told and inaccurately told story. Come Out! has some great accounts of what happened during and after.

Below are links to the first 4 issues of Come Out! so you can take a glance at out past and try to understand what our history is all about.

True to many activist groups, the GLF had a manifesto:

“Gay Liberation Front is a coalition of radical and revolutionary homosexual men and women committed to fight the oppression of the homosexual as a minority group, and to demand the right to the self-determination of our own bodies.” 

Come Out – Volume 1 – Issue 3.pdf
The Front’s manifesto reflects the paradigm change within the gay rights movement, calling on gays and lesbians to take a more active and visible approach to the struggle for equal rights. The imperative title is the publication’s main goal, and the main goal of the GLF – to get gay men and women to come out, to make themselves visible. Come Out! aligns itself politically and critically with the feminist/women’s/lesbian movements occurring contemporaneously, moving away from specifically male- and female- oriented gay serials that preceded it 

Featured in this issue of Come Out! are firsthand accounts and photographs of marches and rallies that capture the spirit of the movement at this pivotal point in its history, interviews with prominent members of the community, articles related to other international struggles (human rights issues in Cuba, for instance), and even poems. 

 

Read the Incredibly Anti-Gay 1969 NY Daily News Piece on the Stonewall Riots – “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Stinging Mad”

Since many of our younger generation don’t comprehend the virulent anti-gay culture that prevailed in 1969 when the Stonewall Riots occurred, I thought I would is re-print this incredibly homophobic 1969 article written in the New York Daily News about what happened the night of the Stonewall riots.

This is what our world looked like and how we were maligned in 1969.

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Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad

The New York Daily News, July 6, 1969
By JERRY LISKER

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

The thick glass shut out the outside world of the street. Inside, the Stonewall bathed in wild, bright psychedelic lights, while the patrons writhed to the sounds of a juke box on a square dance floor surrounded by booths and tables. The bar did a good business and the waiters, or waitresses, were always kept busy, as they snaked their way around the dancing customers to the booths and tables. For nearly two years, peace and tranquility reigned supreme for the Alice in Wonderland clientele.

The Raid Last Friday

Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.

All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.

Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.

The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.

Queen Power

The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.

Urged on by cries of “C’mon girls, lets go get’em,” the defenders of Stonewall launched an attack. The cops called for assistance. To the rescue came the Tactical Patrol Force.

Flushed with the excitement of battle, a fellow called Gloria pranced around like Wonder Woman, while several Florence Nightingales administered first aid to the fallen warriors. There were some assorted scratches and bruises, but nothing serious was suffered by the honeys turned Madwoman of Chaillot.

Official reports listed four injured policemen with 13 arrests. The War of the Roses lasted about 2 hours from about midnight to 2 a.m. There was a return bout Wednesday night.

Two veterans recently recalled the battle and issued a warning to the cops. “If they close up all the gay joints in this area, there is going to be all out war.”

Bruce and Nan

Both said they were refugees from Indiana and had come to New York where they could live together happily ever after. They were in their early 20’s. They preferred to be called by their married names, Bruce and Nan.

“I don’t like your paper,” Nan lisped matter-of-factly. “It’s anti-fag and pro-cop.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t see what they did to the Stonewall. Did the pigs tell you that they smashed everything in sight? Did you ask them why they stole money out of the cash register and then smashed it with a sledge hammer? Did you ask them why it took them two years to discover that the Stonewall didn’t have a liquor license.”

Bruce nodded in agreement and reached over for Nan’s trembling hands.

“Calm down, doll,” he said. “Your face is getting all flushed.”

Nan wiped her face with a tissue.

“This would have to happen right before the wedding. The reception was going to be held at the Stonewall, too,” Nan said, tossing her ashen-tinted hair over her shoulder.

“What wedding?,” the bystander asked.

Nan frowned with a how-could-anybody-be-so-stupid look. “Eric and Jack’s wedding, of course. They’re finally tieing the knot. I thought they’d never get together.”

Meet Shirley

“We’ll have to find another place, that’s all there is to it,” Bruce sighed. “But every time we start a place, the cops break it up sooner or later.”

“They let us operate just as long as the payoff is regular,” Nan said bitterly. “I believe they closed up the Stonewall because there was some trouble with the payoff to the cops. I think that’s the real reason. It’s a shame. It was such a lovely place. We never bothered anybody. Why couldn’t they leave us alone?”

Shirley Evans, a neighbor with two children, agrees that the Stonewall was not a rowdy place and the persons who frequented the club were never troublesome. She lives at 45 Christopher St.

“Up until the night of the police raid there was never any trouble there,” she said. “The homosexuals minded their own business and never bothered a soul. There were never any fights or hollering, or anything like that. They just wanted to be left alone. I don’t know what they did inside, but that’s their business. I was never in there myself. It was just awful when the police came. It was like a swarm of hornets attacking a bunch of butterflies.”

A reporter visited the now closed Stonewall and it indeed looked like a cyclone had struck the premisses.

Police said there were over 200 people in the Stonewall when they entered with a warrant. The crowd outside was estimated at 500 to 1,000. According to police, the Stonewall had been under observation for some time. Being a private club, plain clothesmen were refused entrance to the inside when they periodically tried to check the place. “They had the tightest security in the Village,” a First Division officer said, “We could never get near the place without a warrant.”

Police Talk

The men of the First Division were unable to find any humor in the situation, despite the comical overtones of the raid.

“They were throwing more than lace hankies,” one inspector said. “I was almost decapitated by a slab of thick glass. It was thrown like a discus and just missed my throat by inches. The beer can didn’t miss, though, “it hit me right above the temple.”

Police also believe the club was operated by Mafia connected owners. The police did confiscate the Stonewall’s cash register as proceeds from an illegal operation. The receipts were counted and are on file at the division headquarters. The warrant was served and the establishment closed on the grounds it was an illegal membership club with no license, and no license to serve liquor.

The police are sure of one thing. They haven’t heard the last from the Girls of Christopher Street

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*NOTE:  The writer of this article, Jerry Lisker was actually the sports editor of The New York Daily News.  Lisker later went on to be executive sports editor of the Fox TV Network, and passed away in 1996 from brain cancer.

FIRST LOOK: Watch the trailer for Roland Emmerich’s LGBT Drama “Stonewall”‏ – Video

Stonewall Movie

 

Just 7 weeks short of its release Roadside Attractions has finally debuted the first trailer for Stonewall, director Roland Emmerich’s very fictionalized drama about the 1969 Stonewall riots that started America’s LGBT rights movement. 

Stonewall centers on Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine), who is forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York. Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven. As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build. This emotion runs through Danny and the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born”

From the look of it some re-creations copied from pictures of the era like the 1970 Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade are spot on.  But others look more like a re-imagining of the movie musical RENT are way off including the “wild” goings on inside the Stonewall bar. (In 1969 drag was not allowed in any bar in NYC.)

The fictionalization of the history and “Danny casting the first brick ” is akin to the false history of Sylvia Rivera throwing the first heel  and is not only a shame but an insult when the real history of Stonewall is more than interesting enough. 

Just remember.  This is only a movie.  Not a history lesson.

Stonewall will be released on September 25.

To read the REAL HISTORY of the Stonewall Riots CLICK HERE.

 

Police Inspector Seymore Pine Who Led The Raid On The Stonewall Inn Dies At Age 91

Deputy Police Inspector Seymore Pine who lead the New York City Police on the raid of the Stonewall Inn in 1969, the act that helped start the gay liberation movement,  has died at the age of 91 at an assisted-living center in Whippany, N.J.

Pine, who later apologized for his role in the raid, was commander of the New York Police Department’s vice squad for Lower Manhattan when he led eight officers into the Stonewall Inn, just after midnight on June 28, 1969.  The club, on Christopher Street near Seventh Avenue South, was owned by members of the Mafia. Inspector Pine later said he conducted the raid on orders from superiors.

In 2004,  Pine spoke during a discussion of the Stonewall uprising at the New-York Historical Society. At the time of the raid, he said, the police “certainly were prejudiced” against gays, “but had no idea about what gay people were about.”

The department regularly raided gay clubs for two reasons, he said. First, he insisted, many clubs were controlled by organized crime; second, arresting gay people was a way for officers to improve their arrest numbers. “They were easy arrests,” he said. “They never gave you any trouble” — at least until that night. Someone in the audience said Inspector Pine should apologize for the raid, he did.

Pine has been later quoted as saying ‘If what I did helped gay people, then I’m glad.’