What started the gay rights movement? Gay rights movements have become more popular in the very recent past, possibly in this millennium, but are that when it all began? Contrary to what most people think, gay rights can be traced back to 1924 when the earliest known and acknowledged gay rights organization was formed.
Harry Hay — who is considered to be the founder of the gay rights movement — formed the first national gay rights organization, almost twenty seven years later. The movement did not gain momentum until much later in 1969. In 1969, there were too many laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, openly gay establishments were truly a needle in the haystack with all these laws formed against them. In cities like New York, it was the norm for gay establishments to be raided on a regular resulting in them being shut down. The Stonewall Inn which was a part of the gay establishment, located in Greenwich Village, was a very popular gay bar. The inn, like many other businesses, was considered illegal because it served alcoholic drinks to gay people. On June 28th 1969, the police raided the Stonewall inn. As was standard procedure, when a gay establishment was raided, the establishments patrons were lined up and had their identification checked. It was quite unfortunate, that in those days, those who did not have identification, and those who were dressed in drag, women who were not dressed in a feminine manner, employees and the bar’s management all got arrested. However, on that fateful day, that was not what happened at the Stonewall Inn.
It was approximated that there were about 200 revelers in the establishment and 8 policemen conducting the raid on that night. These customers had just about had enough with the constant harassment in public, and now in their private dens. Almost each one of those gay citizens refused to cooperate with the policemen and decided it was time to stand up for their rights and fight for it together.
Naturally, those policemen felt “they did not have any other choice” but to arrest everyone who failed to cooperate with them. As expected, there were two groups of people, those who were arrested and waiting to be taken to the police station and those who were let go. This was quite an unusual day, with unusual circumstances, such that, when the group that was let go, instead of leaving quickly as was expected, lingered behind. As these men and women stayed behind to support their friends, a large crowd started to form. As time went by, and the patrol cars finally arrived to shepherd them off, the size of the gay community members continued to grow. As the arrested revelers began to come out in their handcuffs waiting to be shepherded off in the police patrol cars, one woman was hit in the head for complaining and the already aggravated crowd simply had enough and all hell broke loose!
A full riot was now in motion. Beer bottles, bits of brick were being thrown around and police patrol cars were almost being overturned. The police officers at the scene tried to save themselves by hiding out in the Stonewall inn, the very establishment they were adamant on shutting down. The irony! Being greatly outnumbered by the crowds, the policemen had no choice, but to wait it out until backup arrived and came to their rescue. The New York tactical police force finally came to their rescue and those who had been initially arrested and then some more, were taken to jail. Ideally, this would have been the end of it all, but the news of the happenings of that fateful night at the Stonewall inn spread, angering many more citizens. This event was culminated by riots that went on almost every single night for the next couple of nights, showing they were no longer stand for injustice and discrimination.
These riots signified the beginning of the gay rights movements as well as the much celebrated gay rights parades.
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