“Stonewall was an unpermitted action” – Gay Liberation Front 1969-1979

Gay contingent, Vietnam War protest, 1971. Photo by Diana Davies, from the NY Public Library.

Gay contingent, Vietnam War protest, 1971. Photo by Diana Davies, from the NY Public Library.

This article is adapted from a public talk by Ian Anderson, active in the Workers Party and Queer Avengers. The talk was originally delivered at Wellington’s Marriage Equality Conference in November-December 2012. It gives a snapshot of the “Gay Liberation” movement of the late 1960s-1970s.

In 1969, the night of the Stonewall riot, was a very hot, muggy night. We were in the Stonewall [bar] and the lights came on. We all stopped dancing. The police came in…

We were led out of the bar and they cattled us all up against the police vans. The cops pushed us up against the grates and the fences. People started throwing pennies, nickels, and quarters at the cops.

And then the bottles started. And then we finally had the morals squad barricaded in the Stonewall building, because they were actually afraid of us at that time. They didn’t know we were going to react that way…

It was street gay people from the Village out front-homeless people who lived in the park in Sheridan Square outside the bar-and then drag queens behind them and everybody behind us. The Stonewall Inn telephone lines were cut and they were left in the dark…

All of us were working for so many movements at that time. Everyone was involved with the women’s movement, the peace movement, the civil-rights movement. We were all radicals. I believe that’s what brought it around.

You get tired of being just pushed around.

-Sylvia Rivera, interview by Leslie Feinberg (Workers World Party 1998)

The 1969 Stonewall Riots, which galvanised the Gay Liberation movement throughout the First World, are a well-documented but little understood rupture. On June 28th, 1969, a regular police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a queer-friendly bar, triggered resistance from marginal queer communities in New York City. This event can only be understood in the context of a wider process of social transformation, while the ensuing political project – “Gay Liberation” – contained internal contradictions which are still relevant today. [Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,069 other followers