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Slate: In 1969, homosexual acts were illegal in every state except Illinois.
That summer, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village.
Few photographs of the raid and the riots that followed exist. Other images in this film are either recreations or drawn from events of the time.
Martin Boyce: For me, there was no bar like the Stonewall, because the Stonewall was like the watering hole on the savannah. You know, it's just, everybody was there. We were all there.
Dick Leitsch: Well, gay bars were the social centers of gay life. Gay bars were to gay people what churches were to blacks in the South.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: There were no instructions except: put them out of business. The first police officer that came in with our group said, "The place is under arrest. When you exit, have some identification and it'll be over in a short time." This time they said, "We're not going." That's it. "We're not going."
Danny Garvin: Something snapped. It's like, this is not right.
Doric Wilson: That's what happened Stonewall night to a lot of people. We went, "Oh my God. I am not alone, there are other people that feel exactly the same way."
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: We didn't have the manpower, and the manpower for the other side was coming like it was a real war. And that's what it was, it was a war.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: This was the Rosa Parks moment, the time that gay people stood up and said no. And once that happened, the whole house of cards that was the system of oppression of gay people started to crumble.
John O'Brien: In the Civil Rights Movement, we ran from the police, in the peace movement, we ran from the police. That night, the police ran from us, the lowliest of the low. And it was fantastic.
Narrator (Archival): Do you want your son enticed into the world of homosexuals, or your daughter lured into lesbianism? Do you want them to lose all chance of a normal, happy, married life?
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: The 1960s were dark ages for lesbians and gay men all over America. The overwhelming number of medical authorities said that homosexuality was a mental defect, maybe even a form of psychopathy.
Slate: The Homosexual (1967), CBS Reports
Mike Wallace (Archival): The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in, nor capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage.
Audience Member (Archival): I was wondering if you think that there are any quote "happy homosexuals" for whom homosexuality would be, in a way, their best adjustment in life?
Dr. Socarides (Archival): I think the whole idea of saying "the happy homosexual" is to, uh, to create a mythology about the nature of homosexuality.
Mike Wallace (Archival): Dr. Charles Socarides is a New York psychoanalyst at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. They are taught that no man is born homosexual and many psychiatrists now believe that homosexuality begins to form in the first three years of life.
Dr. Socarides (Archival): Homosexuality is in fact a mental illness which has reached epidemiological proportions.
Martha Shelley: In those days, what they would do, these psychiatrists, is they would try to talk you into being heterosexual. If that didn't work, they would do things like aversive conditioning, you know, show you pornography and then give you an electric shock.
Narrator (Archival): This involves showing the gay man pictures of nude males and shocking him with a strong electric current. Over a short period of time, he will be unable to get sexually aroused to the pictures, and hopefully, he will be unable to get sexually aroused inside, in other settings as well.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: Gay people who were sentenced to medical institutions because they were found to be sexual psychopaths, were subjected sometimes to sterilization, occasionally to castration, sometimes to medical procedures, such as lobotomies, which were felt by some doctors to cure homosexuality and other sexual diseases. The most infamous of those institutions was Atascadero, in California. Atascadero was known in gay circles as the Dachau for queers, and appropriately so. The medical experimentation in Atascadero included administering, to gay people, a drug that simulated the experience of drowning; in other words, a pharmacological example of waterboarding.
Doric Wilson: Somebody that I knew that was older than me, his family had him sent off where they go up and damage the frontal part of the brain. The last time I saw him, he was a walking vegetable. Because he was homosexual.
Raymond Castro: Society expected you to, you know, grow up, get married, have kids, which is what a lot of people did to satisfy their parents. I never believed in that. It eats you up inside. It eats you up inside not being comfortable with yourself.
Martha Shelley: When I was growing up in the '50s, I was supposed to get married to some guy, produce, you know, the usual 2.3 children, and I could look at a guy and say, "Well, objectively he's good looking," but I didn't feel anything, just didn't make any sense to me. What finally made sense to me was the first time I kissed a woman and I thought, "Oh, this is what it's about." And I knew that I was lesbian. And, it was, I knew I would go through hell, I would go through fire for that experience. For those kisses.
Slate: Activity Group Therapy (1950), Columbia University Educational Films
Narrator (Archival): Note how Albert delicately pats his hair, and adjusts his collar. His movements are not characteristic of a real boy.
Martin Boyce: I wasn't labeled gay, just "different." Somehow being gay was the most terrible thing you could possibly be. And I just didn't understand that. I just thought you had to get through this, and I thought I could get through it, but you really had to be smart about it. Clever. Remember everything. 'Cause I really realized that I was being trained as a straight person, so I could really fool these people. As kids, we played King Kong. I would wait until there was nobody left to be the girl and then I would be the girl. If anybody should find out I was gay and would tell my mother, who was in a wheelchair, it would have broken my heart and she would have thought she did something wrong. I could never let that happen and never did.
John O'Brien: I knew that the words that were being said to put down people, was about me. I learned, very early, that those horrible words were about me, that I was one of those people.
Danny Garvin: He's a faggot, he's a sissy, queer. Queer was very big. Homo, homo was big. My last name being Garvin, I'd be called Danny Gay-vin. I was in the Navy when I was 17 and it was there that I discovered that I was gay. Homosexuality was a dishonorable discharge in those days, and you couldn't get a job afterwards. So I attempted suicide by cutting my wrists. I met this guy and I broke down crying in his arms. Saying I don't want to be this way, this is not the life I want. I'm losing everything that I have. The Catholic Church, be damned to hell. Because to be gay represented to me either very, super effeminate men or older men who hung out in the upper movie theatres on 42nd Street or in the subway T-rooms, who'd be masturbating.
Slate: Boys Beware (1961) Public Service Announcement
Narrator (Archival): Sure enough, the following day, when Jimmy finished playing ball, well, the man was there waiting. Jimmy hadn't enjoyed himself so much in a long time. Then during lunch, Ralph showed him some pornographic pictures. Jimmy knew he shouldn't be interested but, well, he was curious. What Jimmy didn't know is that Ralph was sick. A sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious. A sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual. One never knows when the homosexual is about. He may appear normal, and it may be too late when you discover he is mentally ill.
John O'Brien: I was a poor, young gay person. All I knew about was that I heard that there were people down in Times Square who were gay and that's where I went to. And I found them in the movie theatres, sitting there, next to them.
Martin Boyce: I had cousins, ten years older than me, and they had a car sometimes. I would get in the back of the car and they would say, "We're going to go see faggots." It was one of the things you did in New York, it was like the Barnum and Bailey aspect of it. It was fun to see fags.
Mike Wallace (Archival): Two out of three Americans look upon homosexuals with disgust, discomfort or fear. A CBS news public opinion survey indicates that sentiment is against permitting homosexual relationships between consenting adults without legal punishment. The severity of the punishment varies from state to state. The homosexual, bitterly aware of his rejection, responds by going underground. They frequent their own clubs, and bars and coffee houses, where they can escape the disapproving eye of the society that they call straight.
Slate: The Homosexual (1966), WTVJ/Miami
Narrator (Archival): This is one of the county's principal weekend gathering places for homosexuals, both male and female. The scenes were photographed with telescopic lenses. It is usually after the day at the beach that the real crime occurs. And it's interesting to note how many youngsters we've been seeing in these films.
Detective John Sorenson, Dade County Morals & Juvenile Squad (Archival): There may be some in this auditorium. There may be some here today that will be homosexual in the future. There are a lot of kids here. There may be some girls here who will turn lesbian. We don't know. But it's serious, don't kid yourselves about it. They can be anywhere. They could be judges, lawyers. We ought to know, we've arrested all of them. So if any one of you, have let yourself become involved with an adult homosexual, or with another boy, and you're doing this on a regular basis, you better stop quick. Because one out of three of you will turn queer. And if we catch you, involved with a homosexual, your parents are going to know about it first. And you will be caught, don't think you won't be caught, because this is one thing you cannot get away with. This is one thing that if you don't get caught by us, you'll be caught by yourself. And the rest of your life will be a living hell.
Virginia Apuzzo: I grew up with that. I grew up in a very Catholic household and the conflict of issues of redemption, of is it possible that if you are this thing called homosexual, is it possible to be redeemed? Is that conceivable? And that, that was a very haunting issue for me. I entered the convent at 26, to pursue that question and I was convinced that I would either stay until I got an answer, or if I didn't get an answer just stay.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: The Stonewall riots came at a central point in history.
Ed Koch, Councilman, New York City: Gay rights, like the rights of blacks, were constantly under attack and while blacks were protected by constitutional amendments coming out of the Civil War, gays were not protected by law and certainly not the Constitution.
Slate: Perversion for Profit (1965), Citizens for Decency Through Law
Narrator (Archival): This is a nation of laws. These homosexuals glorify unnatural sex acts. Every arrest and prosecution is a step in the education of the public to the solution of the problem.
John O'Brien: If a gay man is caught by the police and is identified as being involved in what they called lewd, immoral behavior, they would have their person's name, their age and many times their home address listed in the major newspapers. You were alone.
Slate: The Homosexuals (1967), CBS Reports
Narrator (Archival): We arrested homosexuals who committed their lewd acts in public places. This 19-year-old serviceman left his girlfriend on the beach to go to a men's room in a park nearby where he knew that he could find a homosexual contact. The men's room was under police surveillance. The only faces you will see are those of the arresting officers.
Cop (Archival): Anyone can walk into that men's room, any child can walk in there, and see what you guys were doing. How do you think that would affect him mentally, for the rest of their lives if they saw an act like that being…?
Prisoner (Archival): I realize that, but the thing is that for life I'll be wrecked by this record, see? I mean I'm only 19 and this'll ruin me.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: The federal government would fire you, school boards would fire you. So you couldn't have a license to practice law, you couldn't be a licensed doctor. You needed a license even to be a beautician and that could be either denied or taken away from you.
Dick Leitsch: It was an invasion, I mean you felt outraged and stuff like you know what, God, this is America, what's this country come to? But you live with it, you know, you're used to this, after the third time it happened, or, the third time you heard about it, that's the way the world is.
Yvonne Ritter: It's like people who are, you know, black people who are used to being mistreated, and going to the back of the bus and I guess this was sort of our going to the back of the bus.
Eric Marcus, Writer: Before Stonewall, there was no such thing as coming out or being out. The very idea of being out, it was ludicrous. People talk about being in and out now, there was no out, there was just in.
Martha Shelley: If you were in a small town somewhere, everybody knew you and everybody knew what you did and you couldn't have a relationship with a member of your own sex, period. If you came to a place like New York, you at least had the opportunity of connecting with people, and finding people who didn't care that you were gay.
Martin Boyce: In the early 60s, if you would go near Port Authority, there were tons of people coming in. And they were gay.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: There were all these articles in like Life Magazine about how the Village was liberal and people that were called homosexuals went there. And then there were all these priests ranting in church about certain places not to go, so you kind of knew where you could go by what you were told not to do.
Jerry Hoose: And I got to the corner of Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street, crossed the street and there I had found Nirvana. There was all these drags queens and these crazy people and everybody was carrying on. I made friends that first day.
Danny Garvin: It was the perfect time to be in the Village. The music was great, cafes were good, you know, the coffee houses were good.
John O'Brien: There was one street called Christopher Street, where actually I could sit and talk to other gay people beyond just having sex.
Jerry Hoose: The open gay people that hung out on the streets were basically the have-nothing-to-lose types, which I was. A lot of them had been thrown out of their families. And that crowd between Howard Johnson's and Mama's Chik-n-Rib was like the basic crowd of the gay community at that time in the Village. You gotta remember, the Stonewall bar was just down the street from there. It was right in the center of where we all were.
Martin Boyce: That was our only block. That was our world, that block. I mean, I came out in Central Park and other places. That wasn't ours, it was borrowed. This was ours, here's where the Stonewall was, here's our Mecca.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: I had a column in The Village Voice that ran from '66 all the way through '84. The idea was to be there first. It was an age of experimentation. In the sexual area, in psychology, psychiatry. Almost anything you could name. Things were just changing. All the rules were off in the '60s. It was tremendous freedom.
Virginia Apuzzo: It was free but not quite free enough for us. You had no place to try to find an identity. And when you got a word, the word was homosexuality and you looked it up. It said the most dreadful things, it said nothing about being a person. It was as if they were identifying a thing.
Fred Sargeant: In the '60s, I met Craig Rodwell who was running the Oscar Wilde Bookshop. He brought in gay-positive materials and placed that in a setting that people could come to and feel comfortable in. But as visibility increased, the reactions of people increased. The shop had been threatened, we would get hang-up calls, calls where people would curse at us on the phone, we'd had vandalism, windows broken, streams of profanity.
Martin Boyce: You could be beaten, you could have your head smashed in a men's room because you were looking the wrong way. We could lose our memory from the beating, we could be in wheelchairs like some were. Hunted, hunted, sometimes we were hunted. We could easily be hunted, that was a game.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: All throughout the 60s in New York City, the period when the New York World's Fair was attracting visitors from all over America and all over the world. The mayor of New York City, the police commissioner, were under pressure to clean up the streets of any kind of quote unquote "weirdness." A word that would be used in the 1960s for gay men and lesbians.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: They were sexual deviates. I guess they're deviates. They were to us.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: Ed Koch who was a democratic party leader in the Greenwich Village area, was a specific leader of the local forces seeking to clean up the streets.
Ed Koch, Councilman, New York City: There were complaints from people who objected to the wrongful behavior of some gays who would have sex on the street. And the Village has a lot of people with children and they were offended.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: In states like New York, there were a whole basket of crimes that gay people could be charged with. One was the 1845 statute that made it a crime in the state to masquerade.
Slate: Queens at Heart (1965)
TV Host (Archival): Are those your own eyelashes?
Guest (Archival): No.
TV Host (Archival): And Sonia is that your own hair?
Guest (Archival): No.
TV Host (Archival): That's a very lovely dress too that you're wearing Simone. Where did you buy it?
Guest (Archival): Oh, I made it myself.
TV Host (Archival): Ladies and gentlemen, the reason for using first names only for these very, very charming contestants is that right now each one of them is breaking the law.
Yvonne Ritter: "In drag," quote unquote, the downside was that you could get arrested, you could definitely get arrested if someone clocked you or someone spooked that you were not really what you appeared to be on the outside.
Fred Sargeant: Three articles of clothing had to be of your gender or you would be in violation of that law.
Martin Boyce: Mind you socks didn't count, so it was underwear, and undershirt, now the next thing was going to ruin the outfit.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: If someone was dressed as a woman, you had to have a female police officer go in with her. They'd go into the bathroom or any place that was private, that they could either feel them, or check them visually.
Jerry Hoose: I remember I was in a paddy wagon one time on the way to jail, we were all locked up together on a chain in the paddy wagon and the paddy wagon stopped for a red light or something and one of the queens said "Oh, this is my stop." We did use humor to cover pain, frustration, anger.
Dick Leitsch: Very often, they would put the cops in dresses, with makeup and they usually weren't very convincing. You see these cops, like six or eight cops in drag. And then they send them out in the street and of course they did make arrests, because you know, there's all these guys who cruise around looking for drag queens. And so there was this drag queen standing on the corner, so they go up and make a sexual offer and they'd get busted.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: The police would zero in on us because sometimes they would be in plain clothes, and sometimes they would even entrap.
Ed Koch, Councilman, New York City: Yes, entrapment did exist, particularly in the subway system, in the bathrooms. The cops would hide behind the walls of the urinals.
Raymond Castro: New York City subways, parks, public bathrooms, you name it. Naturally, you get careless, you fall for it, and the next thing you know, you have silver bracelets on both arms.
Dick Leitsch: You read about Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal and all these actors and stuff, Liberace and all these people running around doing all these things and then you came to New York and you found out, well maybe they're doing them but, you know, us middle-class homosexuals, we're getting busted all the time, every time we have a place to go, it gets raided.
Danny Garvin: Everybody would just freeze or clam up. The lights came on, it's like stop dancing.
Raymond Castro: If that light goes on, you know to stop whatever you're doing, and separate. Because that's what they were looking for, any excuse to try to bust the place.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: It was always hands up, what do you want? Here are my ID cards, you knew they were phonies. And it would take maybe a half hour to clear the place out.
William Eskridge, Professor of Law: At the peak, as many as 500 people per year were arrested for the crime against nature, and between 3- and 5,000 people per year arrested for various solicitation or loitering crimes. This is every year in New York City. Well, it was a nightmare for the lesbian or gay man who was arrested and caught up in this juggernaut, but it was also a nightmare for the lesbians or gay men who lived in the closet. This produced an enormous amount of anger within the lesbian and gay community in New York City and in other parts of America. Gay people were not powerful enough politically to prevent the clampdown and so you had a series of escalating skirmishes in 1969. Eventually something was bound to blow.
Doric Wilson: When I was very young, one of the terms for gay people was twilight people, meaning that we never came out until twilight, 'til it got dark. Gay bars were always on side streets out of the way in neighborhoods that nobody would go into. The windows were always cloaked.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: There were gay bars all over town, not just in Greenwich Village. There were gay bars in Midtown, there were gay bars uptown, there were certain kinds of gay bars on the Upper East Side, you know really, really, really buttoned-up straight gay bars. There was at least one gay bar that was run just as a hustler bar for straight gay married men.
Dick Leitsch: New York State Liquor Authority had a rule that one known homosexual at a licensed premise made the place disorderly, so nobody would set up a place where we could meet because they were afraid that the cops would come in to close it, and that's how the Mafia got into the gay bar business.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: The mob raised its hand and said "Oh, we'll volunteer," you know, "We'll set up some gay bars and serve over-priced, watered-down drinks to you guys." And the Stonewall was part of that system. The Mafia owned the jukeboxes, they owned the cigarette machines and most of the liquor was off a truck hijacking. It was a 100% profit, I mean they were stealing the liquor, then watering it down, and they charging twice as much as they charged one door away at the 55.
Ed Koch, Councilman, New York City: The Stonewall, they didn't have a liquor license and they were raided by the cops regularly and there were pay-offs to the cops, it was awful.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: I had been in some gay bars either for a story or gay friends would say, "Oh we're going to go in for a drink there, come on in, are you too uptight to go in?" But I had only stuck my head in once at the Stonewall. It was a down at a heels kind of place, it was a lot of street kids and things like that. It was not a place that, in my life, me and my friends paid much attention to. We knew it was a gay bar, we walked past it. It meant nothing to us.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: It was a bottle club which meant that I guess you went to the door and you bought a membership or something for a buck and then you went in and then you could buy drinks.
Fred Sargeant: We knew that they were serving drinks out of vats and buckets of water and believed that there had been some disease that had been passed.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: I never bought a drink at the Stonewall. Never, never, never. Mafia house beer? I mean does anyone know what that is?
Jerry Hoose: The bar itself was a toilet. But it was a refuge, it was a temporary refuge from the street.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: The Stonewall pulled in everyone from every part of gay life. Everyone from the street kids who were white and black kids from the South. All kinds of designers, boxers, big museum people. A medievalist. First you gotta get past the door. There's a little door that slides open with this power-hungry nut behind that, you see this much of your eyes, and he sees that much of your face, and then he decides whether you're going to get in.
Martin Boyce: Well, in the front part of the bar would be like "A" gays, like regular gays, that didn't go in any kind of drag, didn't use the word "she," that type, but they were gay, a hundred percent gay. And then as you turned into the other room with the jukebox, those were the drag queens around the jukebox. Mary Queen of the Scotch, Congo Woman, Captain Faggot, Miss Twiggy.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: What was so good about the Stonewall was that you could dance slow there. Cause we could feel a sense of love for each other that we couldn't show out on the street, because you couldn't show any affection out on the street.
Danny Garvin: It was a chance to find love. I had never seen anything like that. I never saw so many gay people dancing in my life. And I said to myself, "Oh my God, this will not last."
John O'Brien: Heterosexuals, legally, had lots of sexual outlets. They call them hotels, motels, lovers' lanes, drive-in movie theaters, etc. Gay people were told we didn't have any of that. And we had no right to such. Except for the few mob-owned bars that allowed some socializing, it was basically for verboten. And so we had to create these spaces, mostly in the trucks. And these were meat trucks that in daytime were used by the meat industry for moving dead produce, and they really reeked, but at nighttime, that's where people went to have sex, you know, and there would be hundreds and hundreds of men having sex together in these trucks.
Martin Boyce: I heard about the trucks, which to me was fascinated me, you know, it had an imagination thing that was like Marseilles, how can it only be a few blocks away? But we went down to the trucks and there, people would have sex. In the trucks or around the trucks. And it just seemed like, fantastic because the background was this industrial, becoming an industrial ruin, it was a masculine setting, it was a whole world.
Raymond Castro: I'd go in there and I would look and I would just cringe because, you know, people would start touching me, and "Hello, what are you doing there if you don't want to be touched?" But I was just curious, I didn't want to participate because number one it was so packed. I mean I'm talking like sardines.
John O'Brien: It was definitely dark, it was definitely smelly and raunchy and dirty and that's the only places that we had to meet each other, was in the very dirty, despicable places. And there, we weren't allowed to be alone, the police would raid us still.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: So you're outside, and you see like two people walking toward these trucks and you think, "Oh I think I'll go in there," you go in there, there's like a lot of people in there and it's all dark. Then the cops come up and make use of what used to be called the bubble-gum machine, back then a cop car only had one light on the top that spun around. The term like "authority figures" wasn't used back then, there was just "Lily Law," "Patty Pig," "Betty Badge." It was done in our little street talk.
Jerry Hoose: The police would come by two or three times a night. They would bang on the trucks. We'd say, "Here comes Lillian."
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: We would scatter, ka-poom, every which way.
Jerry Hoose: I was chased down the street with billy clubs. One time, a bunch of us ran into somebody's car and locked the door and they smashed the windows in. That was scary, very scary.
John O'Brien: Whenever you see the cops, you would run away from them. Absolutely, and many people who were not lucky, felt the cops. They would not always just arrest, they would many times use clubs and beat.
Martha Shelley: Before Stonewall, the homophile movement was essentially the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis and all of these other little gay organizations, some of which were just two people and a mimeograph machine.
Eric Marcus, Writer: The Mattachine Society was the first gay rights organization, and they literally met in a space with the blinds drawn. They were afraid that the FBI was following them.
Dick Leitsch: Mattachino in Italy were court jesters; the only people in the whole kingdom who could speak truth to the king because they did it with a smile. As president of the Mattachine Society in New York, I tried to negotiate with the police and the mayor. Finally, Mayor Lindsay listened to us and he announced that there would be no more police entrapment in New York City.
Martha Shelley: We participated in demonstrations in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. A few of us would get dressed up in skirts and blouses and the guys would all have to wear suits and ties. And, I did not like parading around while all of these vacationers were standing there eating ice cream and looking at us like we were critters in a zoo.
Dick Leitsch: We wore suits and ties because we wanted people, in the public, who were wearing suits and ties, to identify with us. We didn't want to come on, you know, wearing fuzzy sweaters and lipstick, you know, and being freaks. You know, we wanted to be part of the mainstream society.
Slate: The Homosexual (1966), WTVJ/Miami
Narrator (Archival): Richard Enman, president of the Mattachine Society of Florida, whose goal is to legalize homosexuality between consenting adults, was a reluctant participant in tonight's program.
Richard Enman (Archival): Present laws give the adult homosexual only the choice of being, to simplify the matter, heterosexual and legal or homosexual and illegal. This, to a homosexual, is no choice at all.
Interviewer (Archival): What type of laws are you after?
Richard Enman (Archival): Well, let me say, first of all, what type of laws we are not after, because there has been much to-do that the Society was in favor of the legalization of marriage between homosexuals, and the adoption of children, and such as that, and that is not at all factual at all. Homosexuals do not want that, you might find some fringe character someplace who says that that's what he wants.
Interviewer (Archival): Are you a homosexual?
Richard Enman (Archival): Ye - well, that's yes and no. I was a homosexual. I first engaged in such acts when I was 14 years old. I was never seduced by an older person or anything like that. But I gave it up about, oh I forget, some years ago, over four years ago. It's not my cup of tea.
Martha Shelley: They wanted to fit into American society the way it was. And I had become very radicalized in that time. There was the Hippie movement, there was the Summer of Love, Martin Luther King, and all of these affected me terribly. All of the rules that I had grown up with, and that I had hated in my guts, other people were fighting against, and saying "No, it doesn't have to be this way."
John O'Brien: And deep down I believed because I was gay and couldn't speak out for my rights, was probably one of the reasons that I was so active in the Civil Rights Movement. It was a way to vent my anger at being repressed.
Virginia Apuzzo: What we felt in isolation was a growing sense of outrage and fury particularly because we looked around and saw so many avenues of rebellion.
Danny Garvin: We had thought of women's rights, we had thought of black rights, all kinds of human rights, but we never thought of gay rights, and whenever we got kicked out of a bar before, we never came together.
John O'Brien: The election was in November of 1969 and this was the summer of 1969, this was June. Mayor John Lindsay, like most mayors, wanted to get re-elected. And the police escalated their crackdown on bars because of the reelection campaign.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: All of straight America, in terms of the middle class, was recoiling in horror from what was happening all around them at that time, in that summer and the summer before. The Chicago riots, the Human Be-in, the dope smoking, the hippies. All of this stuff was just erupting like a -- as far as they were considered, like a gigantic boil on the butt of America.
Jerry Hoose: Who was gonna complain about a crackdown against gay people? Nobody. Not even us.
John O'Brien: They had increased their raids in the trucks. They raided the Checkerboard, which was a very popular gay bar, a week before the Stonewall.
David Carter, Author of Stonewall: There was also vigilantism, people were using walkie-talkies to coordinate attacks on gay men. So gay people were being strangled, shot, thrown in the river, blackmailed, fired from jobs. It was a horror story.
Yvonne Ritter: I had just turned 18 on June 27, 1969. I was celebrating my birthday at the Stonewall. Beginning of our night out started early. When we got dressed for that night, we had cocktails and we put the makeup on. I was wearing my mother's black and white cocktail dress that was empire-waisted. I didn't think I could have been any prettier than that night. I told the person at the door, I said "I'm 18 tonight" and he said to me, "you little SOB," he said. "You could have got us in a lot of trouble, you could have got us closed up." Well, little did he know that what was gonna to happen later on was to make history.
Dick Leitsch: And I remember it being a clear evening with a big black sky and the biggest white moon I ever saw.
Eric Marcus, Writer: It was incredibly hot. You throw into that, that the Stonewall was raided the previous Tuesday night. So it was a perfect storm for the police. They didn't know what they were walking into.
David Carter, Author of Stonewall: Most raids by the New York City Police, because they were paid off by the mob, took place on a weeknight, they took place early in the evening, the place would not be crowded. This was a highly unusual raid, going in there in the middle of the night with a full crowd, the Mafia hasn't been alerted, the Sixth Precinct hasn't been alerted.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: We only had about six people altogether from the police department knowing that you had a precinct right nearby that would send assistance.
Raymond Castro: We were in the back of the room, and the lights went on, so everybody stopped what they were doing, because now the police started coming in, raiding the bar. They pushed everybody like to the back room and slowly asking for IDs. Meanwhile, there was crowds forming outside the Stonewall, wanting to know what was going on.
Danny Garvin: We were talking about the revolution happening and we were walking up 7th Avenue and I was thinking it was either Black Panthers or the Young Lords were going to start it and we turned the corner from 7th Avenue onto Christopher Street and we saw the paddy wagon pull up there. And some people came out, being very dramatic, throwing their arms up in a V, you know, the victory sign.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: That night I'm in my office, I looked down the street, and I could see the Stonewall sign and I started to see some activity in front. So I run down there. And as I'm looking around to see what's going on, police cars, different things happening, it's getting bigger by the minute. And the people coming out weren't going along with it so easily.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: A rather tough lesbian was busted in the bar and when she came out of the bar she was fighting the cops and trying to get away. And the harder she fought, the more the cops were beating her up and the madder the crowd got. And I ran into Howard Smith on the street, The Village Voice was right there. And Howard said, "Boy there's like a riot gonna happen here," and I said, "yeah." And the police were showing up. And so Howard said, "We've got police press passes upstairs." You know, Howard's concern was and my concern was that if all hell broke loose, they'd just start busting heads. At least if you had press, maybe your head wouldn't get busted.
Fred Sargeant: Things started off small, but there was an energy that began to flow through the crowd.
Danny Garvin: People were screaming "pig," "copper." People started throwing pennies.
Yvonne Ritter: And then everybody started to throw pennies like, you know, this is what they were, they were nothing but copper, coppers, that's what they were worth.
Dick Leitsch: So it was mostly goofing really, basically goofing on them. Getting then in the car, rocking them back and forth. Calling 'em names, telling 'em how good-looking they were, grabbing their butts. Doing things like that. Just making their lives miserable for once.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: At a certain point, it felt pretty dangerous to me but I noticed that the cop that seemed in charge, he said you know what, we have to go inside for safety. Your choice, you can come in with us or you can stay out here with the crowd and report your stuff from out here. I said, "I can go in with you?" He said, "Okay, let's go." He pulls all his men inside. It's the first time I'm fully inside the Stonewall.
Raymond Castro: So then I got pushed back in, into the Stonewall by these plain clothes cops and they would not let me out, they didn't let anybody out. They were just holding us almost like in a hostage situation where you don't know what's going to happen next.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: But there were little, tiny pin holes in the plywood windows, I'll call them the windows but they were plywood, and we could look out from there and every time I went over and looked out through one of those pin holes where he did, we were shocked at how big the crowd had become. They were getting more ferocious. Things were being thrown against the plywood, we piled things up to try to buttress it.
Fred Sargeant: Someone at this point had apparently gone down to the cigar stand on the corner and got lighter fluid.
John O'Brien: And then somebody started a fire, they started with little lighters and matches.
Raymond Castro: Incendiary devices were being thrown in I don't think they were Molotov cocktails, but it was just fire being thrown in when the doors got open.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: Well, we did use the small hoses on the fire extinguishers. But we couldn't hold out very long.
John O'Brien: I was very anti-police, had many years already of activism against the forces of law and order. This was the first time I could actually sense, not only see them fearful, I could sense them fearful.
Doric Wilson: There was joy because the cops weren't winning. The cops were barricaded inside. We were winning.
John O'Brien: I was with a group that we actually took a parking meter out of the ground, three or four people, and we used it as a battering ram.
Martin Boyce: Oh, Miss New Orleans, she wouldn't be stopped. And she was quite crazy. And when she grabbed that everybody knew she couldn't do it alone so all the other queens, Congo Woman, queens like that started and they were hitting that door. I mean they were making some headway.
Danny Garvin: Bam, bam and bash and then an opening and then whoa….
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: We had maybe six people and by this time there were several thousand outside.
Raymond Castro: You could hear screaming outside, a lot of noise from the protesters and it was a good sound. It was a real good sound to know that, you know, you had a lot of people out there pulling for you.
Yvonne Ritter: I did try to get out of the bar and I thought that there might be a way out through one of the bathrooms. Somebody grabbed me by the leg and told me I wasn't going anywhere.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: The moment you stepped out that door there would be hundreds facing you. It was terrifying. It was as bad as any situation that I had met in during the army, had just as much to worry about.
John O'Brien: Our goal was to hurt those police. I wanted to kill those cops for the anger I had in me. And the cops got that. And they were lucky that door was closed, they were very lucky. Cause I was from the streets.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: And I keep listening and listening and listening, hoping I'm gonna hear sirens any minute and I was very freaked. Because if they weren't there fast, I was worried that there was something going on that I didn't know about and they weren't gonna come.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: Our radio was cut off every time we got on the police radio. That never happened before.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: So at that point the police are extremely nervous. And a couple of 'em had pulled out their guns. I actually thought, as all of them did, that we were going to be killed. And if enough people broke through they would be killed and I would be killed. They'd think I'm a cop even though I had a big Jew-fro haircut and a big handlebar mustache at the time. But I'm wearing this police thing I'm thinking well if they break through I better take it off really quickly but they're gunna come this way and we're going to be backing up and -- who knows what'll happen.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: We told this to our men. "Don't fire. Don't fire until I fire."
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: And he went to each man and said it by name. Like, "Joe, if you fire your gun without me saying your name and the words 'fire,' you will be walking a beat on Staten Island all alone on a lonely beach for the rest of your police career. Do you understand me?"
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: Well, I had to act like I wasn't nervous. That this was normal stuff. But everybody knew it wasn't normal stuff and everyone was on edge and that was the worst part of it because you knew they were on edge and you knew that the first shot that was fired meant all the shots would be fired.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: It was getting worse and worse. People standing on cars, standing on garbage cans, screaming, yelling. The ones that came close you could see their faces in rage.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: We were looking for secret exits and one of the policewomen was able to squirm through the window and they did find a way out.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: All of a sudden, in the background I heard some police cars. And we all relaxed. We heard one, then more and more.
Dick Leitsch: And so the cops came with these buses, like five buses, and they all were full of tactical police force. And they wore dark police uniforms and riot helmets and they had billy clubs and they had big plastic shields, like Roman army, and they actually formed a phalanx, and just marched down Christopher Street and kind of pushed us in front of them.
Raymond Castro: So finally when they started taking me out, arm in arm up to the paddy wagon, I jumped up and I put one foot on one side, one foot on the other and I sprung back, knocking the two arresting officers, knocking them to the ground. And a whole bunch of people who were in the paddy wagon ran out.
Martin Boyce: All of a sudden, Miss New Orleans and all people around us started marching step by step and the police started moving back. That's what gave oxygen to the fire. Because as the police moved back, we were conscious, all of us, of the area we were controlling and now we were in control of the area because we were surrounded the bar, we were moving in, they were moving back.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: And by the time the police would come back towards Stonewall, that crowd had gone all the around Washington Place come all the way back around and were back pushing in on them from the other direction and the police would wonder, "These are the same people or different people?"
Danny Garvin: With Waverly Street coming in there, West Fourth coming in there, Seventh Avenue coming in there, Christopher Street coming in there, there was no way to contain us.
Dick Leitsch: And the blocks were small enough that we could run around the block and come in behind them before they got to the next corner. And this went on for hours.
Martin Boyce: We were like a Hydra. You cut one head off. For the first time the next person stood up.
John O'Brien: All of a sudden, the police faced something they had never seen before. Gay people were never supposed to be threats to police officers. They were supposed to be weak men, limp-wristed. Not able to do anything. And here they were lifting things up and fighting them and attacking them and beating them.
Martin Boyce: And I remember moving into the open space and grabbing onto two of my friends and we started singing and doing a kick line. And we were singing: "We are the Village girls, we wear our hair in curls, we wear our dungarees, above our nellie knees." This was in front of the police.
Jerry Hoose: I mean the riot squad was used to riots. They were not used to a bunch of drag queens doing a Rockettes kick line and sort of like giving them all the finger in a way.
Danny Garvin: And the cops just charged them. And they started smashing their heads with clubs.
Martin Boyce: And then more police came, and it didn't stop. Windows started to break. And all of a sudden, pandemonium broke loose.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: What they did in the Stonewall that night. I went in there and they took bats and just busted that place up. The mirrors, all the bottles of liquor, the jukebox, the cigarette machines.
Raymond Castro: There were mesh garbage cans being lit up on fire and being thrown at the police. Tires were slashed on police cars and it just went on all night long.
John O'Brien: Cops got hurt. It must have been terrifying for them. I hope it was. It gives back a little of the terror they gave in my life.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: Those of us that were the street kids we didn't think much about the past or the future. We were thinking about survival. So anything that would set us off, we would go into action. And it's that hairpin trigger thing that makes the riot happen. The police weren't letting us dance. If there's one place in the world where you can dance and feel yourself fully as a person and that's threatened with being taken away, those words are fighting words.
Martin Boyce: The day after the first riot, when it was all over, and I remember sitting, sun was soon to come, and I was sitting on the stoop, and I was exhausted and I looked at that street, it was dark enough to allow the street lamps to pick up the glitter of all the broken glass, and all the debris, and all the different colored cloth, that was in different places. It was as if an artist had arranged it, it was beautiful, it was like mica, it was like the streets we fought on were strewn with diamonds. It was like a reward. I really thought that, you know, we did it. But we're going to pay dearly for this.
Fred Sargeant: When it was clear that things were definitely over for the evening, we decided we needed to do something more. We knew that this was a moment that we didn't want to let slip past, because it was something that we could use to bring more of the groups together. Leaflets in the 60s were like the internet, today. That night, we printed a box, we had 5,000. It was a leaflet that attacked the relationship of the police and the Mafia and the bars that we needed to see ended.
Jerry Hoose: I was afraid it was over. And there was like this tension in the air and it just like built and built.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: Saturday night there it was. The Stonewall had reopened. The mob was saying, you know, "Screw you, cops, you think you can come in a bust us up? We'll put new liquor in there, we'll put a new mirror up, we'll get a new jukebox." And gay people were standing around outside and the mood on the street was, "They think that they could disperse us last night and keep us from doing what we want to do, being on the street saying I'm gay and I'm proud? Just let's see if they can."
Martin Boyce: People in the neighborhood, the most unlikely people were starting to support it. My father said, "About time you fags rioted."
Jerry Hoose: Gay people who had good jobs, who had everything in life to lose, were starting to join in. Even non-gay people.
Dick Leitsch: There were Black Panthers and there were anti-war people.
Martin Boyce: There were these two black, like, banjee guys, and they were saying, "What's goin' on man?" and someone would say, "Well, they're still fighting the police, let's go," and they went in.
Fred Sargeant: The tactical patrol force on the second night came in even larger numbers, and were much more brutal. There were occasions where you did see people get night-sticked, or disappear into a group of police and, you know, everybody knew that was not going to have a good end.
John O'Brien: They went for the head wounds, it wasn't just the back wounds and the leg wounds.
Dick Leitsch: And that's when you started seeing like, bodies laying on the sidewalk, people bleeding from the head.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: They started busting cans of tear gas. And there was tear gas on Saturday night, right in front of the Stonewall.
Danny Garvin: There was more anger and more fight the second night. There was no going back now, there was no going back, there was no, we had discovered a power that we weren't even aware that we had.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: And then the next night. I mean it didn't stop after that. Once it started, once that genie was out of the bottle, it was never going to go back in.
Howard Smith, Reporter, The Village Voice: It really should have been called Stonewall uprising. They really were objecting to how they were being treated. That's more an uprising than a riot.
Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt: As much as I don't like to say it, there's a place for violence. Because if you don't have extremes, you don't get any moderation. And as awful as people might think that sounds, it's the way history has always worked.
Martha Shelley: I don't know if you remember the Joan Baez song, "It isn't nice to block the doorway, it isn't nice to go to jail, there're nicer ways to do it but the nice ways always fail." For the first time, we weren't letting ourselves be carted off to jails, gay people were actually fighting back just the way people in the peace movement fought back.
Martin Boyce: It was thrilling. It was the only time I was in a gladiatorial sport that I stood up in. I was proud. I was a man.
Lucian Truscott, IV, Reporter, The Village Voice: The New York Times I guess printed a story, but it wasn't a major story. I mean you got a major incident going on down there and I didn't see any TV cameras at all. If there had been a riot of that proportion in Harlem, my God, you know, there'd have been cameras everywhere. I famously used the word "fag" in the lead sentence I said "the forces of faggotry." And the first gay power demonstration to my knowledge was against my story in The Village Voice on Wednesday. They put some people on the street right in front of The Village Voice protesting the use of the word fag in my story. And, you know, The Village Voice at that point started using the word "gay."
Fred Sargeant: The press did refer to it in very pejorative terms, as a night that the drag queens fought back. It was nonsense, it was nonsense, it was all the people there, that were reacting and opposing what was occurring.
Danny Garvin: We became a people. We didn't necessarily know where we were going yet, you know, what organizations we were going to be or how things would go, but we became something I, as a person, could all of a sudden grab onto, that I couldn't grab onto when I'd go to a subway T-room as a kid, or a 42nd street movie theater, you know, or being picked up by some dirty old man. You know, all of a sudden, I had brothers and sisters, you know, which I didn't have before.
Martha Shelley: The riot could have been buried, it could have been a few days in the local newspaper and that was that. But we had to follow up, we couldn't just let that be a blip that disappeared. And I hadn't had enough sleep, so I was in a somewhat feverish state, and I thought, "We have to do something, we have to do something," and I thought, "We have to have a protest march of our own." And they were having a meeting at town hall and there were 400 guys who showed up, and I think a couple of women, talking about these riots, 'cause everybody was really energized and upset and angry about it. And I raised my hand at one point and said, "Let's have a protest march." And Dick Leitsch, who was the head of the Mattachine Society said, "Who's in favor?" and I didn't see anything but a forest of hands.
Fred Sargeant: The effect of the Stonewall riot was to change the direction of the gay movement. We were going to propose something that all groups could participate in and what we ended up producing was what's now known as the gay pride march.
Slate: June 28, 1970
Doric Wilson: In those days, the idea of walking in daylight, with a sign saying, "I'm a faggot," was horren--, nobody, nobody was ready to do that. So I got into the subway, and on the car was somebody I recognized and he said, "I've never been so scared in my life," and I said, "Well, please let there be more than ten of us, just please let there be more than ten of us. Because its all right in the Village, but the minute we cross 14th street, if there's only ten of us, God knows what's going to happen to us."
John O'Brien: We had no idea we were gonna finish the march. We had no speakers planned for the rally in Central Park, where we had hoped to get to. We didn't expect we'd ever get to Central Park. We assembled on Christopher Street at 6th Avenue, to march.
Doric Wilson: And we were about 100, 120 people and there were people lining the sidewalks ahead of us to watch us go by, gay people, mainly.
Jerry Hoose: And we were going fast. People that were involved in it like me referred to it as "The First Run." We had been threatened bomb threats. You know. People could take shots at us. We were scared. But as we were going up 6th Avenue, it kept growing.
Doric Wilson: And I looked back and there were about 2,000 people behind us, and that's when I knew it had happened. I say, I cannot tell this without tearing up. And Vito and I walked the rest of the whole thing with tears running down our face. But, that's when we knew, we were ourselves for the first time. America thought we were these homosexual monsters and we were so innocent, and oddly enough, we were so American.
Virginia Apuzzo: It's very American to say, "This is not right." It's very American to say, "You promised equality, you promised freedom." And in a sense the Stonewall riots said, "Get off our backs, deliver on the promise." So in every gay pride parade every year, Stonewall lives.
Martin Boyce: It was another great step forward in the story of human rights, that's what it was. And it was those loudest people, the most vulnerable, the most likely to be arrested, were the ones that were doing the real fighting. They were the storm troopers.
Seymour Pine, Deputy Inspector, Morals Division, NYPD: And they were, they were kids. You knew you could ruin them for life. And you felt bad that you were part of this, when you knew they broke the law, but what kind of law was that?
My American Experience
What do the Stonewall riots mean to you? Were you in New York in late June, 1969? Did the riots impact your life? How do you think America changed after the Stonewall riots?