Features, LGBT History Month, Radio
Fifty years ago, at 1:20am a gay bar in Manhattan was raided by police. The raid didn’t go as planned. Instead of the usual demeaning line up, identification check and sex verification, the patrons of the bar refused. For this the police decided to take everyone down to the station. Those not arrested stayed outside as a crowd of 150 people congregated within minutes to watch.
As a crowd grew tenfold outside, so did the tension and confusion. It wasn’t until a young lesbian woman, who had been hit on the head with a baton, was picked up and heaved into the back of a police wagon that the crowd went ‘berserk’. They had had enough.
Rubbish bins, rubbish, bottles, rocks and bricks were hurled at the building and those police officers who had barricaded themselves inside. Forty-five minutes after the riot had begun, the fire brigade and subsequent riot squads were able to put out the flames and scatter the crowd. But the riots continued for five more days.
“The Stonewall became home to these kids. When it was raided, they fought for that.” Said one activist group at the time.
The Stonewall Riots became a catalyst for the gay rights movement around the world. Within two years of the riots there were gay rights groups in every major American city, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.
The events at the Stonewall Inn were certainly not the first time homosexual people had fought back against the police, but it became etched in history as an early example of the struggle LGBTQ+ people still face.
The Stonewall charity is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity named after the riots. One of its three founders, Ian McKellen, will be at the National Student Pride event on 23rd February to talk about the anniversary of the riots and his experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
If students want to get involved in LGBTQ+ activism and the charity itself visit: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/