Did anyone die at Stonewall? What really happened at the June 1969 riots

Olivia Olphin June 1, 2021
Did anyone die at Stonewall? What really happened at the June 1969 riots
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Did anyone die at Stonewall? While many people are celebrating the beginning of Pride Month today, we take a look back at the catalyst for modern Pride, the Stonewall riots of 1969. We also clarify why June is Pride Month, and exactly what happened more than 50 years ago.

What happened at the Stonewall riots in 1969?

In New York in 1969 police would regularly raid gay bars, harassing the LGBTQ+ community who spent their time there. In the 1960s same-sex relations were illegal.

One specific bar, Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn, was one of those establishments regularly disrupted by a strong police presence.

The police raided the bar in the early hours of 28 June 1969 and arrested 13 people. However, the queer community fought back and protested against constant mistreatment.

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These were spontaneous demonstrations and, according to reports, two transgender women of colour, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, resisted arrest and threw a bottle or a brick at police. However, there is still conjecture as to exactly who started the riots.

This sparked a widespread protest as chaos unfolded and the police officers were forced to move inside the bar for safety.

However, despite the large police presence no-one died or was badly injured in the Stonewall riots.

Why is June Pride month?

Pride is celebrated in June because the Stonewall riots, or the Stonewall uprising, took place on 28 June 1969 in New York City.

The modern Pride event is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community but is also a protest, and is set out to remember those who have tirelessly fought for LGBTQ+ equality.

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Stonewall galvanised the queer community and became a uniting moment that created multiple gay rights organisations.

While LGBTQ+ rights have improved in many places in the world, Pride is a reminder that the fight for equality is ongoing. Pride Month is heavily situated in the protest of those who came before.

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Olivia Olphin is a freelance writer at GRV Media. She graduated with a first in English Literature from UCL and with a distinction from the Broadcast Journalism MA at City University. She has three years of freelance journalism experience and during this time she has worked for companies such as Eurosport and Times Radio. Her particular areas of expertise include film, theatre, and TV; she will most likely be found bingeing the newest fantasy or Marvel series! Olivia has many years of reviewing experience, working as accredited press for the London Film Festival. She has also written widely about culture and sex education, as well as LGBTQ+ and women's issues.