If you’re not in New York City today, you’re missing out on one of the most spectacular celebrations in America. The New York City Gay Pride March, better known as PRIDEfest.
The first NYC Gay Pride March was held in 1970. This year’s March marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which signaled the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. The original purpose of the March, to protect the civil rights of homosexuals, has expanded to include the fight against AIDS and a celebration of life and community. And a grand celebration it is.
At noon, participants, floats, bands and celebrities will gather at 5th Ave. and 52nd Street. The March will wind its way down 5th Ave. and end at the intersection of Christopher and Greenwich Streets just a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn. Well-wishers and curious by-standers will line the streets to watch the beautiful and not so beautiful show their pride and support for the gay community.
At 1:20 a.m., June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village an accident happened. There was no plan, no premeditation.
In those early days, the only LGBT bar in NYC that allowed dancing was the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia owned bar. That morning, eight policemen raided the bar, which was packed with 200 patrons.
The atmosphere was one of confusion. The cops called for backup from the sixth precinct. The savvy customers who knew what was happening bolted for the doors and windows. But, the police blocked their exit.
Police SOP was to line up the patrons, check the sex of those dressed as women and the identity of the others. That morning, things didn’t go as usual. The patrons simply refused to be harassed. The out-numbered cops decided to transport the entire group to the station.
This is where circumstances changed history. The patrol wagons were delayed in arriving. Some of the customers were released. But, instead of leaving, they hung around outside attracting a curious crowd. The crowd began to grow and grow until the number outside outnumbered those inside.
Rumors spread that people were being beaten. Some shouting here, some pushing there and suddenly the crowd became a mob. Less than 45 minutes into the commotion, bricks were thrown, windows smashed and a fire started. The Fire Department and Tactical Police Force finally arrived. Anger on both sides escalated. By 4:00 a.m. the streets were cleared only to reconvene the following evening (Sunday) with increased numbers. Rioting continued for three days.
Things would never be the same.
2009: President Obama has invited gay rights advocates to the White House tomorrow in recognition of the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
In less than a week, we will be celebrating America’s freedoms. Frequently, we forget the sacrifices others have made to win those freedoms. Regardless of our orientations, let’s remember and celebrate.
To see a short video of the 2008 Gay Pride March, please
visit You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0h5ONAv8PM&feature=channel_page