Stonewall Inn, Celebrated Birthplace of Modern Gay Rights Movement, Gets Landmark Status

stonewall

Early in the morning of June 28, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police—then a common occurrence at the Greenwich Village bar that had become a staple of New York City’s underground gay community. (Photo: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid)

By Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams

Nearly 46 years after powerful protests there galvanized the modern gay rights movement, New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn has been granted official landmark status.

The designation, unanimously agreed to on Tuesday by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, also comes just days before the annual Pride celebration, held annually in commemoration of what became known as the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

It was June 28, 1969, when police raided the Greenwich Village bar that served gay clientele in an era of intolerance toward homosexuality.

As Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) communications director Dorothee Benz writes in a blog post about the incident, “It was one of thousands of such raids that routinely took place in American cities and towns. But the response was anything but routine. For the first time ever, patrons fought back, setting off three days of rioting and providing the spark that ignited the modern gay rights movement. Inspired by the movements of the ’60s, the moment of revolt turned into a wave of organizing.”

Meenakshi Srinivasan, chairwoman of the Landmark Preservation Commission, acknowledged Stonewall’s place in history in a speech before the vote. “New York City’s greatness lies in its inclusivity and diversity,” she said. “The events at Stonewall were a turning point in the LGBT rights movement and in the history of our nation.”

The vote, according to the New York Observer, “was swift, unanimous, met with loud support, and even tears.”

The Observer reported:

Men and women who rioted 46 years ago recalled their experiences in detailed testimonies. Others told stories of how Stonewall was a comforting and accepting place when they struggled to come to terms with their sexualities. Some Council Members shared stories of how granting the bar landmark status was personally significant.

Martin Boyce, who was 21 years old on the first night of the riots, described his experience that night to the Observer. “It was frustration, it was release, it was catharsis,” he recalled. “You don’t know how much they made me shake in my boots back then.”

CCR’s Benz said Stonewall’s legacy has as much to do with who was involved as with what they accomplished, writing: “It’s especially important and appropriate to stop and remember that the people who helped start it all that night in Greenwich Village were among the most marginalized members of our community: drag queens, prostitutes, homeless youth.”

To that end, CCR will be handing out information during Sunday’s Pride march about both “the growing exportation of homophobic agendas by U.S. conservatives to other areas of the world” and how the New York Police Department (NYPD) targets transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially people of color, and LGBTQI communities more broadly.

To do so, Benz declared, is “a fitting tribute to the poor and marginalized queers who fought back at the Stonewall 46 years ago.”

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Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams