June 28, 1969 marks the beginning of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of events between police and LGBTQ+ protesters which stretched over six days. It was not the first time police raided a gay bar, and it was not the first time LGBTQ+ people fought back, but the events that would unfold over the next six days would fundamentally change the discourse surrounding LGBTQ+ activism in the US.

While Stonewall became well known due to the media coverage and the subsequent annual Pride traditions, it was a culmination of years of LGBTQ+ activism. Historians have noted that the shift in activism, if Stonewall truly represented one at all, was a shift primarily for white cisgender people, as people of color and gender non-conforming people never truly had the benefit of concealing their marginalized identities. Gay Liberation Front organizations emerged in NY, SF, LA and elsewhere, impacted by the anti-war movement, women’s liberation, and by other liberation movements inside the US. Black Panther Party for Self-Defense co-founder Huey P. Newton issued a statement supportive of the gay liberation movement.

While the events of Stonewall are sometimes referred to as “riots,” Stonewall veterans have explicitly stated that they prefer the term Stonewall uprising or rebellion. The reference to these events as riots was initially used by police to justify their use of force.

“The rebellion (it was never a ‘riot’) lasted five inconsecutive nights (they were not ‘riots’)…” -STONEWALL Veterans’ Association

It is important to note that there were a number of uprisings against police & state brutality, harassment and entrapment of the LGBT+ communities in the U.S. in the years before Stonewall. These events and the people involved have not received as much historical attention as Stonewall, but are just as central to understandings of U.S. LGBTQIA+ histories. There was also a long history of organizing by groups such as the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, Harry Hay and the Radical Faeries, and others, often associated, as Hay was, with left groups.

Some of the pre-Stonewall uprisings included:

Pepper Hill Club Raid, Baltimore, Maryland in 1955. Over 162 people arrested.

Hazel’s (Hazel’s Inn), Sharp Park, California February 1956

Coopers Do-Nut Raid, Los Angeles, California, 1959

Black Nite Brawl, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 5, 1961

Compton’s Cafeteria Raid, San Francisco, California, 1966 A pro-trans resistance to police harassment in the Tenderloin district by trans people of color.

Black Cat Raid, Los Angeles, California, 1967

More information here: https://guides.loc.gov/lgbtq-studies/stonewall-era

and here: https://www.stonewallvets.org/

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