It’s 51 years to the day since the uprising – everything we have now and everything we aspire to can be traced back to that historic night.
On 28 June 1969, after years of unjust treatment, LGBTs fought back at the persecution of the police.
In 1969, being gay was as illegal as stealing cars or embezzling money. Public displays of affection or dressing in drag could result in charges of gross indecency and lewdness, and the penalty was arrest or a beating.
Police had been given the authority to raid gay bars arrest those committing homosexual acts, or demand that people observe a ‘three-piece law.’
What was the ‘three piece law’? It was legislation that allowed police to arrest people – usually drag queens, trans women and trans men – who were wearing more than three articles of clothing not ascribed to their gender assigned at birth. Yes really!!!
The police e frequently raided New Your’s Stonewall Inn, but on June 28th 1969 things were different. An uprising took place, which was followed by three nights of protests and civil unrest as LGBT people, long frustrated by police brutality, finally joined in fighting back.
The Stonewall Riots are important as many trace this event as the spark that ignited the modern LGBT+ rights movement. The Gay Liberation Front was the main organisation that formed out of the Stonewall uprising and these wider movements.
Some UK activists were involved in some of these key moments in the US movement, and they came back to Britain to form a British chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, with the first UK Gay Pride Rally taking place three years later on 1 July 1972, in London.
It was because of the riots that these groups learnt that standing together and protesting could lead to change, something that is being seen again today with the Black Lives Matter protests.
Before Stonewall, the activists wanted to fit into society and not rock the boat. But after the uprising, polite requests for change turned into angry demands. It was hugely significant. The first, courageous step had been taken.