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Significance of the 1969 Stonewall Riots

In 1969, police brutality and the criminalization of queer individuals was at an all time high. Tensions between police and the LGBT community were building. On the night of June 28, 1969 things came to a head and a violent riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village community in Manhattan in New York City. In this essay I will attempt to explain the significance of this uprising for myself and other members of the LGBT community. 

During the late 1960's, many civil rights issues were being protested. People of color and the LGBT community were being severely mistreated by the rest of society and eventually they decided they had had enough. The civil rights movement of the 1950's and 60's served as a catalyst for the events at Stonewall in 1969. 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In order for me to fully explain to significance of this uprising to the reader, some background information must be given. During the late 60's, queer individuals did not experience the same freedoms that their straight, cisgender neighbors enjoyed. They were not permitted to serve in the military and were assumed to be naturally disruptive and mentally unstable. Crossdressing and relationships with members of the opposite sex were illegal and could be punished by anything from a light fine to a lifetime of imprisonment. Many public establishments like restaurants and bars did not welcome LGBT individuals. The places that did were often rowdy and unsafe. The Stonewall Inn, the place where the 1969 uprising began, was owned by the Mafia. Since the LGBT community was seen as a threat to society, police raids on gay bars were extremely common. 

THE RIOT

It was during one of these raids at the Stonewall Inn that the riot began. Police stormed in and dragged many patrons of the inn into their cars and started to beat them. Eventually, things became too violent for the onlookers to ignore and they started to fight back against the police. Things escalated quickly and more and more people and officers joined the riot. It lasted for six days and more than 2,000 people and 400 policemen were involved. 

IMPORTANT FIGURES

When discussing the Stonewall Uprising, two names always seem to come up – Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two trans women of color that played a huge part in the riot and the LGBT rights movement that followed. Sylvia Rivera is believed to have been one of the first people to start fighting against violent police forces during the police raid. 

Both of these dynamic women were key in organizing LGBT activist groups and the first pride parade, which was held in New York city on June 28, 1970.

SIGNIFICANCE

The events at Stonewall brought about a new civil rights movement that would forever change the lives of queer individuals in the United States. I am personally extremely grateful for the brave people who participated in the uprising to fight for the rights of myself and other members of the LGBT community. 

I hope this essay has helped the reader(s) better understand the significance of this riot in a general sense and how it directly affects me.