A man walks in front of the Stonewall Inn
Flickr user Benjamin Wilson

At Stonewall, remembering a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ rights

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In the late 1960s, the Stonewall Inn—a bar on the ground floor of a modest brick building in Greenwich Village—was a popular gathering place for New York City's LGBTQ community. Police raids on gay bars in the city were common at the time, so nobody was surprised when officers barreled into the Stonewall Inn late on June 28, 1969. But that night, rather than submitting to arrest or dispersing, some of the patrons fought back.

It was a spontaneous act of defiance that exploded into five nights of violent clashes between police and the LGBTQ community and its allies—events widely recognized as the spark that ignited the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

1969 photo of the outside of the Stonewall Inn.The Stonewall Inn in 1969, the year of the riots.Photo credit: Diana Davies/New York Public Library

“I think Stonewall came out of the protest spirit of the 1960s, when so many people started to stand up and try to take what was theirs,” recalls longtime Greenwich Village resident Gil Horowitz. “Gay people were definitely not immune to a desire for equality—we just got started a little later.”

Horowitz and his boyfriend at the time joined the second night of demonstrations at Christopher Park, a tiny patch of green across the street from the Stonewall Inn. Horowitz was arrested and hauled to the police station, where he recalls officers beating protesters with nightsticks. “The violence against gay people that I witnessed during the demonstrations and at the precinct horrified me beyond anything I’d seen in my life," he says.

The riots drew national media attention and electrified the LGBTQ community. People who had been resigned to concealing their sexuality began to envision a different future. “After the riots, gay people in the village no longer had that beaten-down look,” Horowitz remembers. “We started to feel we could show affection for each other in public. What had previously been hidden in the shadows of the Stonewall Inn was now out in the open.” 

On June 28, 1970, a year after the Stonewall uprising, activists held the world’s first gay pride marches in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The event has since expanded internationally. But don’t call it a parade, Horowitz insists. “It is a march. You march in protest. You have a parade when you’ve won,” he says. “We are far from winning, but we’re getting there.”

At a 1970 gay pride march in San Francisco, people hold a banner that says, "'69 Stonewall.'"A year after the Stonewall riots, activists held the first gay pride marches in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco (above).Photo credit: Marie Uaeda/The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

The Stonewall Inn, meanwhile, closed down shortly after the riots. It returned in the 1990s only to close again in 2006. “I couldn’t fathom that this place would sit empty,” says Stacy Lentz, who, with two business partners, reopened the bar in 2007. “To me, this is birthplace of gay rights—what happened here in 1969 sparked a revolution across the country and even around the world. I wanted to be a part of keeping that history alive.” 

These days the Stonewall Inn welcomes a diverse crowd from across the LGBTQ community and beyond. Across the street, Christopher Park is a frequent gathering place for protests, celebrations, and vigils. “People gravitate to this spot to show solidarity and share their stories,” says Lentz. “It gives you goosebumps to know you’re standing on the shoulders of the people who rioted here.”

When the Supreme Court ruled in support of marriage equality in June 2015, thousands of people packed the streets around the park to celebrate. And in the days following an attack on an Orlando nightclub, the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York were among the thousands who gathered here to mourn the dead and protest the violence. 

Outside the Stonewall Inn, people take pictures of a memorial for the victims of the Orlando shooting.After a shooting at gay nightclub in Orlando, the Stonewall Inn was the site of a vigil that drew thousands of mourners. Photo credit: Flickr user Elisa G Schneider

In June 2016, President Obama made Christopher Park the first national monument dedicated to telling the story of the fight for LGBTQ rights. "I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country—the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us: that we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one," the president said in a YouTube video announcing the monument. The Trust for Public Land helped New York City prepare for the transfer of the property, paving the way for its permanent protection.

For Lentz, who was born just a few months before the first gay pride march in 1970, a national monument is a fitting tribute to a movement that she has grown up alongside. “This solidifies so many people’s actions, work, and dreams of equality. We have fought so hard to change hearts and minds. We’ve been persecuted for years, and to have your government recognize what people have gone through and fought for—it’s an incredible thing for our community.”

“This national monument acknowledges that we’re a part of the fabric of America,”agrees Horowitz. For him, the monument’s significance extends outside Greenwich Village and beyond the LGBTQ community.

“The national parks are supposed to tell the stories that are important to the whole country," he says. "Ours was a big story yet untold.”


Larry Best`
As we progress in the movement for equality of all people, let us not forget the roots that created that change. Let us preserve Stonewall as a National Monument, and other places that made America the land of the free.
Nancy Murdock
So important to preserve this!
Lisa Ray
Thank you very much...:) and all you guys do!!!.:)
Sidni Totten
After being together for more than 30 years, my wife & I legally married in that little park on Dec. 6, 2013. We are proud to be part of the generation that resisted the police that night in 1969. I lived in CA at the time & remember going to the first Gay Liberation Front ‘love in’ in Griffith Park in LA. In the months following, we spontaneously picked up the rotten fruit and beer bottles we all had thrown at us exiting bars and threw it back! This was in the Bay Area during the awakening all across the U.S.A.
Christopher Molinaro
STONEWALL...meant "Fight-Back" (and it still does !) The 1960's was the decade of revolution and change and homosexuals were no exception. Since 1969, a long 53 years ago, LGBT people have made many strides;including gays serving openly in the military and marriage equality. All through endless up-hill battles that took decades,not years to achieve. However, the war is not over by any means ! In 2022, there still in no national anti-discrimination law for all "50" states to outlaw discrimination and hate-crimes against gay men, lesbians and all LGBT peoples. That is our next battle,...it is coming,but when ? Join the fight....we demand full equality on every level !

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