Remembering the Stonewall Riots
Fifty year ago today, a New York City bar was raided, sparking a movement that continues to this very day. The month of June is Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots.
“I looked up. There was a gun in my face. The guy with the gun said, ‘this is a raid. Don’t move.’” The night of June 28th, 1969, Gulfport resident Simon Cohen will never forget. Cohen, originally from the Bronx, was a bartender in New York’s Greenwich Village during the infamous Stonewall Riots, which is recognized as the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement. “From what I understand, one person screamed ‘We’re not going to take this’ or ‘let’s show them’ or ‘riot’ or something and that’s when it happened. That’s when it happened, that’s all it took because these people were very angry at being treated the way they were.”
That pushback was a direct result of New York’s strict laws against homosexuality which included the removal of liquor licenses from same-sex bars, even making it illegal to dance with someone of the same-sex. While the riot started at the nearby Stonewall Inn, the New York Police Department quickly made its way to other known-gay bars in the area, like Cohen’s. “It was so fast and so finite, I mean, it happened and that was it. There wasn’t any time to do anything but freeze.”
While a difficult and painful time, the chain of events sparked change. “A year later, a fellow from the Oscar Wilde Book Shop held a march on Christopher Street with like 20 people to commemorate the anniversary of the event.”
That would go on-to-be the first public Gay Pride Parade in the history of the United States.