Tag Archives: Gay Activists Alliance

Gay History – August 1970: The Gay Activist Alliance and Gay Liberation Front Battle the NYPD in the “Forgotten Riot”

If you think the Stonewall Riots was the only protest in New York City over police harassment in the gay community think again.

In 1970 after the first Christopher Street Day (PRIDE), gay residents in New York’s Greenwich Village began to notice increased police harassment, particularly during the last three weeks of August.  In one week alone, over three hundred gay men and lesbians had been arrested in the Times Square area. The Gay Liberation Front’s newsletter Come Out! reported that one young man was looking at a display window when a police officer came up to him and asked, Were you ever arrested?”  “No,” the young man replied. The officer said, “There’s always a first time,” and hauled him away. Women were also being harassed, which was a new development.

Local activists had had enough, so on Saturday August 29, 1970, the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists’ Alliance, Radical Lesbians and other women’s groups organized a demonstration. About 250 people showed up at 8th Avenue and West 42nd Street near Times Square, and marched down 7th. Avenue to Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village.

This action has since been known as “The Forgotten Riot.” The demonstration broke up around midnight, but the frustrations were still there. Some went on to march around the Women’s House of Detention at Greenwich Avenue and 6th Avenue. New York City Police arrived to break it up, and the crowd ran toward Christopher Street. The crowd arrived just in time to witness the police raiding a bar called The Haven. As a mass of demonstrators gathered in front of the barand  the police called for reinforcements. A police bus arrived, and it was met with a shower of bottles. A running battle ensued over the next two hours, as crowds set trash cans on fire and overturned at least one car. Eight were injured and approximately fifteen people were arrested.  

The next day, the GLF and GAA held a news conference at the gay-friendly Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, charging the police with harassment. They also denounced police inaction against a series of gay bashings and anti-gay harassment in the neighborhood. A police spokesman denied that there were any increased actions against the gay community, but refused further comment.

[Sources: Frank J. Brial. “Protest march by homosexuals sparks disturbance in ‘Village’.” The New York Times (August 30, 1970): 49.

C. Gerald Frasier. “‘Gay ghettos’ seen as police targets: but homosexuals’ charge of harassment denied.” The New York Times(August 31, 1970): 28.

#PRIDE2022 - Learn All About The First Christopher Street Liberation Day (PRIDE) March - RARE VIDEO

#PRIDE2022 – Learn All About The First Christopher Street Liberation Day (PRIDE) March – RARE VIDEO

On November 2, 1969, just 4 months after the Stonewall riots Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy, and Linda Rhodes of the newly formed Gay Liberation Front proposed the first “gay pride parade” which was then called the “CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY MARCH.” to be held in New York City by way of a public resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) which meeting in Philadelphia..

Using Philadelphia’s smaller Annual Reminder protest which happened every year on the Fourth of July in front of Freedom Hall Rodwell, Sargeant,  Broidy, and Rhodes proposed the following to ECHO:

We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. No dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration.

We also propose that we contact Homophile organizations throughout the country and suggest that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day. We propose a nationwide show of support.

All at the meeting in voted in favor of the march except for Mattachine Society of New York City, which abstained.(HYMN).

Meetings to organize the march began in early January at Rodwell’s apartment in 350 Bleeker Street not far from the site of the Stonewall bar.  At first there was major difficulty getting some of New York organizations like Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) to send representatives. In the end Rodwell , Sargeant, and Broidy, along with Michael BrownMarty Nixon, Brenda Howard of the the Gay Liberation Front and Foster Gunnison of the Mattachine Society made up the core group

For funding Gunnison sought donations from the national homophile organizations and sponsors, while Rodwell and Sargeant solicited donations via the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop customer mailing list. Nixon worked to gain financial support from GLF in his position as treasurer for that organization.  Believing that more people would turn out for the march on a Sunday they  scheduled the date for Sunday, June 28, 1970, the 1st. anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The parade route covered 51 blocks from Christopher Street to Central Park ending in a “Gay-In” in Sheep’s Meadow.

On the same weekend gay activist groups on the West Coast held a march in Los Angeles on June 28, 1970 and a march and ‘Gay-in’ in San Francisco.

In Los Angeles, Morris Kight (Gay Liberation Front LA founder), Reverend Troy Perry (Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches founder) and Reverend Bob Humphries (United States Mission founder) gathered to plan a commemoration. They settled on a parade down Hollywood Boulevard. But securing a permit from the city was no easy task. They named their organization Christopher Street West.”   But they had more difficulty with Los Angeles than New York City.  Rev. Perry recalled the Los Angeles Police Chief Edward M. Davis telling him, “As far as I’m concerned, granting a permit to a group of homosexuals to parade down Hollywood Boulevard would be the same as giving a permit to a group of thieves and robbers.” Grudgingly, the Police Commission granted the permit, though there were fees exceeding $1.5 million. After the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in, the commission dropped all its requirements but a $1,500 fee for police service. That, too, was dismissed when the California Superior Court ordered the police to provide protection as they would for any other group. The eleventh hour California Supreme Court decision ordered the police commissioner to issue a parade permit citing the “constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.” From the beginning, L.A. parade organizers and participants knew there were risks of violence. Kight received death threats right up to the morning of the parade. Unlike what we see today, the first gay parade was very quiet. The marchers convened on McCadden Place in Hollywood, marched north and turned east onto Hollywood Boulevard. The Advocate reported “Over 1,000 homosexuals and their friends staged, not just a protest march, but a full blown parade down world-famous Hollywood Boulevard.”

The first marches were both serious protests and fun, they served to inspire the widening activist movement. The marches were repeated in the following years, and more and more pride marches started up in other cities throughout the world. In Atlanta and New York City the marches were called Gay Liberation Marches, and the day of celebration was called “Gay Liberation Day”; in Los Angeles and San Francisco they became known as ‘Gay Freedom Marches’ and the day was called “Gay Freedom Day”. As more cities and even smaller towns began holding their own celebrations, these names spread and evolved.

In the 1980’s there was a cultural shift in the gay movement. Activists of a less radical nature took over, mostly due to the advent of big organizations like the HRC and  also because of the AIDS crisis which took the lives of so many of the original activist.  At this point many groups started dropping the original “Gay Liberation” and “Gay Freedom” from the names, replacing them with “Gay Pride”.

Watch the rare video below of the first Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade which took place on June 28, 1970.  

 

 

 

Gay History 1971 – LIFE Magazine Publishes: “Homosexuals in Revolt” – 44 Years Later And We Are Still Fighting

Gay Activists Alliance President Jim Owles submits to arrest

Yesterday we posted about the first tlevised documentary about homosexuality in 1961,  Today we will flash-forward 10 years to  two years after the Stonewall riots in New York City   in 1971 and a LIFE Magazine featured article and 11 page pictorial on “gay liberation titled “Homosexuals in Revolt” which it called  “a major essay on America’s newest  militants”.

Some readers of LIFE were offended that the magazine would devote a dozen pages to people whom one letter writer  characterized as “psychic cripples.”

Other responses from peeved readers that  were printed in the January 28, 1972, issue of LIFE included:

From Telford, Penn. — There was plenty to lament in your  year-end issue, but the thing that struck me as most sad was the fact that LIFE  felt compelled to devote 11 pages to “Homosexuals in Revolt.”

From Chicago — Essentially, it is absurd to accept as a mere “variant lifestyle” a practice which, if universal, would mean the end of the  human race.

Including the still today, as popular as ever 41 years later among anti-gay “Christians”

From Glendale, California, the standard (as well as reductionist and  selective) biblical critique — “You shall not lie with a male as with a  woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).

Some LIFE readers praised the article for its fairness, accuracy and the dignity in which it was presented.  But even back then there was posturing for position and infighting from the LGBT community for equal representation from with its groups.

A woman in New Jersey named Jule Lee, who was (in her words) “one of the oldest  lesbian activists — both in age and years of participation in the  movement.”   was outraged, because the article focused on what she called “LIFE-made ‘leaders and out of ten picture pages … lesbians are mentioned on two.

To its credit LIFE, unlike many other periodicals of the time LIFE did try to portray the movement fairly and taking into fact that it was 1971 that was a very astonishing thing for the time.

Excerpt:

It was the most shocking and, to most Americans, the most surprising  liberation movement yet. Under the slogan “Out of the closets and into the  streets,” thousands of homosexuals, male and female, were proudly confessing  what they had long hidden. They were, moreover, moving into direct confrontation  with conventional society. Their battle was far from won. But in 1971 militant  homosexuals showed they they were prepared to fight it…They resent what they  consider to be savage discrimination against them on the basis of a preference  which they did not choose and which they cannot — and do not want to — change. And while mist will admit that “straight” society’s attitudes have  caused them unhappiness, they respond to the charge that all homosexuals are  guilt-ridden and miserable with the defiant rallying cry “Gay is Good!”

Its interesting that in 1971 LIFE magazine states about homosexuality: ” basis of a preference  which they did not choose and which they cannot — and do not want to — change” alluding that even in 1971 many thought that being gay was not a choice and individuals were indeed born gay.  But then again this is a full decade BEFORE Ronald Reagan, Jerry Falwell and the the moral majority came on the scene to start spreading its hateful and false propaganda.

Many of the people who started our fight for equality are gone now and no longer with and and we owe them a great debt for standing up and taking our message to the streets and having the courage to start our fight.

It’s now 44 years later we are still fighting.

We owe it to ourselves and the those who fought before us not to get complacent and to continue to fight and to win.

 

 

June 1971 Gay Liberation Week (Pride) candlelight march