Pride Month 2022: An exploration into the Stonewall Riots

Danny Munro June 3, 2022
Pride Month 2022: An exploration into the Stonewall Riots

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As we enter Pride Month 2022, we’re looking back at one of the key events that helped transform the gay liberation movement.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots, or The Stonewall Uprising, was a pivotal moment in the fight for equality, and exemplified the struggles faced by queer people in the US, and globally, in the 20th century.

In this piece, we will attempt to summarise the events at Stonewall, explore its effect on the pride movement and answer the key question – why did the police raid the Stonewall Inn?

What happened at the Stonewall Riots?

In the early hours of Saturday 28 June, 1969, The New York City Police Department began a raid of the Stonewall Inn, in Manhattan.

The Stonewall Inn was one of several popular gay bars in the area at the time and it is said that Stonewall, and other queer-friendly drinking spots were often subject to police raids.

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Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images

In June 1969 though, the Stonewall patrons fought back.

The standard protocol for the raids was for the police to line up all club attendees, inspect their identification cards and then, typically, carry out some arrests on members of management and attendees who appeared feminine (i.e. dressing in drag).

On this occasion, citizens resisted arrest and those who were released by the police did not leave promptly. Instead, they waited outside the venue, eventually leading to large crowds of onlookers waiting outside Stonewall.

When a woman was forcibly removed from the building by the police, (the woman has often been noted as Stormé DeLarverie, but this has been disputed), the crowd began to riot en masse.

So ensued five nights of uprising between the LGBTQIA+ community and the police, in what we now know to be The Stonewall Riots.

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Why did the police raid the Stonewall Inn?

So, why did the police raid the Stonewall Inn?

During the 1960s in the US, queer people were highly marginalised. Senior politicians were outwardly homophobic and it is thought that over 400 people were released from government employment over suspicions about sexuality.

As such, the police were often tasked with performing sweeps or raids, of nightclubs and even normal public spaces like parks or beaches, to clear the areas of those suspected to be queer.

Stonewall was the only gay bar in New York where dancing was allowed, therefore deeming it to be the main hotspot for gay nighttime activity – and a prime target for the New York Police Department.

It wasn’t until June 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the uprising, that the police officially apologised for their actions.

Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

The subsequent beginning of the pride movement

The long-lasting effect of the Stonewall Riots was huge.

The events at Stonewall effectively birthed the modern-day pride movement, with the first ever US pride marches taking place in June 1970 on the one-year anniversary.

In the subsequent years following Stonewall, gay rights groups appeared all across the US, as well as some areas of Europe, Australia and Canada.

The battle for gay liberation continued well into the 21st century, and in many parts of the US, the struggle for members of the LGBTQIA+ continues.

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Danny Munro is a Freelance Entertainment Reporter at GRV Media sites HITC and The Focus and is currently in his third year of a Journalism and Politics degree at the University of Strathclyde. From Twitter to TikTok, his finger is constantly on the pulse of the latest online trends and a typical shift will see him write about anything from The Kardashians to politics and everything in between. He is also passionate about all things music and edits the music section in his university paper, The Strathclyde Telegraph. Danny can be contacted at [email protected]