In today’s day and age, many people celebrate PRIDE month, which technically begins June 1st each year, throughout the entire summer. The most recognized symbol of PRIDE month is now the rainbow flag, although there have been many symbols over time. Much like what is happening in our world today, PRIDE month commemorates another time of protests and rioting that brought awareness to deep-seated issues and helped people feel the strength and backing to take a stand.
In June of 1969, a unit of police officers from the “public morals division” raided the Stonewall Inn- which was a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. While raids were not unusual in New York or many other cities around the world, the Public Morals Division enforced laws for vice, gambling, prostitution, narcotics, and homosexuality. In those days, cops could arrest and force hospitalization of gay people.
On June 28th of 1969, however, the patrons took a stand and fought back. It is said to have started with the war-cry of Marsha P. Johnson, who said, “I got my civil rights!” and threw a shot glass into a mirror, which has been deemed, “the Shot Glass that was heard around the world.” Other patrons of the Stonewall Inn then joined in the fight, including people from other bars in the area. Hundreds of people resisted arrest and fought against the police oppression. Rioters then broke windows, set cars on fire, and police officers were injured. The police then barricaded themselves into the Stonewall Inn for safety.
While New York’s Tactical force did respond and intervene, they were run out of the neighborhood by the rioters. After six days of intense protesting and thousands of people joining in, things did eventually calm down.
The Changes from Stonewall
While the incident at the Stonewall Inn was not the direct start of the LGBTQ movement, it did help to catapult the cause to the front of life for many. LGBTQ activists had been organizing since the early 1920s, but without the backing of as many bodies and people. Thanks to Stonewall, the media now covered these events which allowed many others to see the LGBTQ struggle for themselves, which allowed even more people to join the cause.
In 1970, the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots were marked by demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many of these events then became known as “Gay Freedom Marches,” and the day itself became known as, “Gay Freedom Day,” while Chicago began calling it, “Gay Pride Week.”
Parades were often mixed with celebration, gay rights, and of course, politics. These events grew the visibility of the LGBTQ community and served as a huge megaphone for LGBTQ needs and rights. These rights and needs consisted of protection against harassment, raising awareness of the AIDS epidemic, and fighting for marriage equality. Once this movement began to roll, it only grew in size and momentum throughout the years.
In the 1980s, LGBTQ activists began to control the marches and protests in all cities, and dropped the extra titles and names, leaving them to be called, “Gay Pride.”