On a sweltering night in June of 1969 the police raided a mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn. This was a common occurrence at the time—in fact the Stonewall Inn had already been raided earlier that week. Usually the members of what is now known as the LGBTQ+ community would quickly disperse once the police allowed them to leave. This time however they stayed and fought back, and the modern gay rights movement was born.
While people had organized for gay rights before the uprising, the Stonewall Riots marked a new chapter. The confrontational actions of the bar's patrons had more in common with the other protests of the era, such as the Black Power and anti-war movements. In its aftermath the LGBTQ+ community no longer asked to be left alone, it demanded Gay Liberation. A year later the first Pride Parade would be held to commemorate this landmark event.
This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Much progress has been made in the intervening years, yet there is much that still needs to be achieved. Many adoption agencies continue to discriminate against gay couples. In 28 states it is still legal to fire someone simply for being gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender. It is even worse for some of the most marginalized members of the queer community, especially the ones who are credited with leading the fight against police harassment at the Stonewall, such as homeless youth and people who are transgender. It is estimated that 40% of homeless youth in 2019 identify as LGBTQ+. And according to the Human Rights Campaign at least 26 transgender people were murdered in 2018, the majority of whom were trans women of color.
As a non-profit dedicated to the expansion of human rights the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy strives to promote further acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community at home and around the world. We are also proud to be a part of the World Pride events taking place around the city in celebration of the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. We hope you will visit the Park this June, when we will transform our monumental staircase into the largest pride flag in all of NYC. And mark your calendars for #AscendWithPride on June 15th. This all day Pride celebration will feature a special appearance by our friends at Drag Queen Story Hour, along with other LGBTQ+ friendly programming. For more information about #AscendWithPride please visit our events page here.