Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stonewall Rebellion Anniversary

Today is the 38th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion that started the queer revolution in America. It was just after 1:30 a.m. when New York City Police busted into the the gay bar in Greenwich Village like they had done so many times before.

That night was different. The bar patrons were fed up and decided to fight back. This is a good description of what happened. This is another short description of what took place that night.

The first Pride parades took place in June of 1970
across the United States to commemorate the first year anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. The LGBT community has been celebrating Pride once a year, usually in June, ever since.

A couple years ago I met a Stonewall Veteran living with his partner on Cape Cod. David Bermudez was there the night the police raided the Stonewall Inn. David was part of the rebellion that started the gay movement. He is one of about 30 Stonewall Veterans that are still living today. I had a chance to hear about the night of the raid and the following events.

David told me that in the early morning hours on June 28, 1969 he was mourning the death of the gay icon Judy Garland. She was buried earlier that night and everyone was feeling down. David was out with his friends and decided to go to their usually hangout, the Stonewall Inn. He said that Stonewall was raided by police on a regular basis.

David showed up at Stonewall around 12:30 in the morning. No one had any idea what was about to happen. An hour later David was standing near the rear of the bar. He noticed smoke near the entrance. At first he thought there was a fire. He told his friends that they had better get out of the bar.

The next thing he knew he was being hit and starting punching back. David explained to me that when the police raided the bar, as they had done so many times before, they started to rough up some of the guys. He said that the drag queens started pushing the cops back. This started the fight. People who usually would not fight back were so upset over the death of Judy Garland that they decided they were not going to take it anymore.

David started to make his way to the front of the bar. He realized that the smoke was not from a fire, it was tear gas used by the police. He was being hit by police and had to punch his way out the door. Once he made it outside, he met his friends at the park across the street. They watched as the police patty wagons pulled up. The police started hauling people away.

A large crowd of LGBT people gathered outside the bar. They banded together and began to fight back.
They started throwing rocks at the police. The crowd outnumbered the police and overtook the officers. The police retreated into the bar, dragging people with them and beating them. Someone uprooted a parking meter and used it as a battering ram to force the police officers out of the bar. Someone else set a fire. The crowd started chanting, "Gay Power" as they fought back for the first time in history. The rebellion continued for the next few days.

There are no pictures from the five days of the rebellion because the media completely ignored the entire event. There have been a couple of documentaries made about Stonewall. There was even a movie, titled Stonewall, made in 1995 based on the actual events. The film is excellent.

Today David lives with his husband Bob on Cape Cod. David and Bob have been together for over thirty years. They were legally married in 2004. Both David and Bob are very involved in politics to this day.

David is a member of the Stonewall Veterans Association. He and his partner marched at the front of New York City's LGBT Pride Parade two years ago as the first Stonewall Veteran to legally marry. It is an honor to know them both.


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