Where did the Stonewall Riots take place

Background current

The Stonewall Riots took place in New York 50 years ago. On June 28, 1969, gay, lesbian and transgender people resisted a raid on a bar on Christopher Street. Every year this day is remembered with parades around the world and a self-confident LGBTQI movement is celebrated.

The Stonewall Inn in New York is now a listed building. The resistance of the homosexuals who fought against a police raid 50 years ago is considered a milestone in the history of the LGBTQIA movement and is celebrated every year on Christopher Street Day (CSD). (& copy picture-alliance / AP)

The 1960s are seen as the dawn of a new zeitgeist in the USA. At first, homosexuals hardly benefited from this. On the basis of so-called "sodomy laws" they were prosecuted in many states and also systematically disadvantaged at other levels, for example in the housing market or in the workplace. The Stonewall riots on Christopher Street in New York City 50 years ago represent the beginning of the active resistance of the gay and lesbian movement to discrimination - a struggle that the LGBTQI movement continues to this day.

Raid as the starting point for the Stonewall riots

Homosexuals could only congregate in a few places in New York in the 1960s. Bars known as their hangouts were not licensed to sell alcohol - a lucrative business for Mafia families who at the time were running many of the Greenwich Village nightclubs as "private clubs" without a license. The state restrictions were regularly checked by police raids, during which there were repeated attacks. The police arrested mostly men in women's clothing and recorded the identities of those present, some of which were made public.

One such raid was carried out by police on the night of June 28, 1969 in the bar "Stonewall Inn" on Christopher Street. The visitors resisted the controls. Some reports see the resistance of the lesbian singer Stormé DeLarverie to the brutal actions of a police officer when she was arrested as a specific reason for the unrest. DeLarverie is therefore also called the "Rosa Parks of the homosexual movement", based on the famous African American civil rights activist. The bar visitors fled outside, where they pelted the police with stones and bottles. These then barricaded themselves in the bar until a special unit brought the situation under control. According to newspaper reports on June 29, 1969, four police officers were injured and 13 people were arrested during the night. In the days that followed, other homosexuals and the neighborhood of Greenwich Village showed their solidarity with protesters at the Stonewall Inn, and for five days there were repeated clashes with the police.

Resistance to state arbitrariness and discrimination

Even before the riots on Christopher Street, homosexuals were organized in the United States. The Society for Human Rights, founded in Chicago in 1924, campaigned against discrimination against gays and lesbians, as was the Mattachine Society, founded in Los Angeles in 1950. Nonetheless, the events of June 1969 marked a turning point in the history of the American gay and lesbian movement: for the first time, a group of homosexual and transgender people offered physical resistance to police violence, state arbitrariness and discrimination. The unrest is therefore seen as the beginning of gay and lesbian emancipation.

Christopher Street Day commemorates Stonewall

The gay and lesbian movement began in New York in 1969. (& copy AP)
The first "Christopher Street Liberation Day" was organized by members of the movement in New York on June 28, 1970 to commemorate the events of the previous year - including a parade of around 4,000 people, which tripled in the following three years The number of participants. Gays and lesbians in many cities in the US and Europe followed suit. The name "Christopher Street Liberation Day" was chosen to replace the events of the "Stonewall Inn" and the associated mafia USA the term "Gay Pride" is common for the parade.

In the 1960s, the German gay movement had primarily fought for a reform of the sexual criminal law, which made homosexuality generally a criminal offense until 1969. The first "Christopher Street Day" took place in Berlin on June 28, 1979, the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Homophobia is still a reality today

Compared to the 1960s, the legal situation of the LGBTQI community in the US has improved significantly to this day. The last "sodomy laws" have expired since 2003. In 2011, the so-called "Don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed, which banned gay and lesbian members of the army from talking about their sexual orientation. Same-sex partnerships have been recognized in all US states since 2015. In March 2019, a bill was introduced in the US Congress to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in all areas nationwide. Nevertheless, homosexuals are still victims of discrimination and violence today. In one of the worst assassinations in US history, around June 2016, 49 people were killed in an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida.

The "Stonewall Inn" was declared an urban monument by the City of New York City in 2015. It was the first time that a building received such recognition due to the LGBTQI movement. On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots this year, the New York Police Chief James O'Neill apologized for the first time for the actions of the NYPD in June 1969. The measures and laws were wrong, discriminatory and oppressive.

More on the subject:

Daniel Schwitzer: History of the CSD

Karsten Schubert: Sexual and gender self-determination as a human right

Robert Kramm: Gender and Sexuality (Dossier (Post) Colonialism and Global History)