Tag Archives: 1965

Gay History - April 24, 1965: The Protests and Sit-In at Dewey's Restaurant in Philadelphia.

Gay History – April 24, 1965: The Protests and Sit-In at Dewey’s Restaurant in Philadelphia.

The two historic protests and sit-ins at Dewey’s Restaurant in Philadelphia in 1965 was a pivotal moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement in the United States. At a time when discrimination against members of the LGBT community was widespread and often went unchallenged, a group of activists decided to take a stand and demand equal treatment under the law.

The sit-ins were organized by members of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) and the Janus Society because of Dewey’s discriminatory denials of service to “homosexuals,” “masculine women,” “feminine men,” and “persons wearing non-conformist clothing.”

The first sit-in of April 25, 1965, a group of about 150 ECHO members gathered at Dewey’s Restaurant, a popular lunch spot in downtown Philadelphia that was known to discriminate against gay customers. Over the next five days, Janus Society activists and their supporters, led by Robert L. Sitko, demonstrated outside the restaurant and distributed 1500 fliers to passersby.

At he second protest on May 2nd, protesters, many of whom were dressed in their Sunday best, entered the restaurant and attempted to order food. When they were told that they would not be served, they sat down and refused to leave. Some of the protesters brought signs and placards that read “We are your sons and daughters” and “We demand our rights.” They sang songs and chanted slogans, drawing attention from passersby and media outlets.

The sit-in lasted for hours, with the protesters refusing to budge even as police officers arrived on the scene. The officers initially attempted to disperse the crowd, but when they realized the size and determination of the group, they decided to let the protesters stay.

The Janus Society focused on four objectives in particular, which they believe were accomplished after the second sit-in on May 2nd: “(1) to bring about an immediate cessation to all indiscriminate denials of service, (2) to prevent additional arrests, (3) to assure the homosexual community that (a) we were concerned with the day-to-day problems and (b) we were prepared to intercede in helping to solve these problems, (4) to create publicity for the organization and our objectives.”

The Dewey Restaurant protest and sit-ins did not come without some criticism from within the LGBT community itself due to the involvement of DRUM magazine., a sexually explicit, gay magazine that was controversial at the time, some in the LGBT community that DRUMS participation and support cast negative light on the Dewey’s sit-ins and provided “ammunition for enemies of the LGBT movement.”

Additionally, the sit-in was notable for its peaceful and nonviolent nature. The protesters did not engage in any acts of violence or destruction, despite being met with hostility and aggression from some members of the public. This helped to dispel the myth that LGBT people were inherently violent or unstable, and demonstrated that they were capable of organizing and protesting peacefully.

Perhaps most importantly, the sit-in at Dewey’s Restaurant helped to change attitudes toward LGBT people in Philadelphia and beyond. Many people who had previously been indifferent or hostile to the LGBT community began to see them as real people with real struggles and concerns. This helped to pave the way for the eventual repeal of discriminatory laws.

Although lesser known than the later, large-scale riots at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, and the preceding the Cooper Do-nuts Riot of 1959, the Dewey’s sit-ins became iconic stepping stones in the fight for LGBT rights. Drum Magazine (of which Clark Polak was the editor) deemed it “the first sit-in of its kind in the history of the United States.”

The Dewey’s Restaurant protests and sit-ins of 1965 was a watershed moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement. The protesters who participated in the sit-in were brave and determined, and their actions helped to raise awareness of the discrimination and inequality faced by LGBT people across the country. The sit-in inspired others to take action, and ultimately helped to change attitudes toward LGBT people and bring about significant progress in the struggle for equal rights.

Study Shows There Was over 600 LGBT Rights Protests Between 1965 to 1973.

Study Shows There Was Over 600 LGBT Rights Protests Between 1965 to 1973.

Where are the protests today that we so desperately need?

A recent report published jointly by OutHistory and Queer Pasts, documents more than 600 LGBT direct actions, stated Marc Stein, a gay man who’s a history professor at San Francisco State University and the study’s lead researcher. 

For the nine years studied, Stein and his research team identified 646 direct action events, averaging 72 per year. The study cites more than 1,800 media sources from the 1960s and 1970s, the release noted. According to these sources, more than 200,000 people participated in these protests and nearly 200 were arrested.

The report includes lists of the cities, states, and months that featured the largest number of LGBTQ direct actions, along with the protests that featured the largest number of participants, the largest number of arrests, and the longest sustained actions during the period studied. The 20 largest actions involved more than 1,000 participants, the release stated.

San Francisco is at the top of the list, with 148 documented protests during the nine-year period, according to the study. It’s followed closely by New York City (142), Los Angeles (93), Washington, D.C. (43), and Chicago (40). Berkeley ranks seventh with 21. Other California cities on the list are: Kern River (near Bakersfield), with 13, and Sacramento (3). 

Perhaps its time that we all moved away from the computer and protest again.