Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Stonewall Revisited

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Stonewall Revisited

Article excerpt

In the 1960s I had to sneak out of Brooklyn to come to the Nobody at home knew I was a homosexual, because in those days everybody would beat you up. But in Greenwich Village there were bars where you could drink and dance with other gays.

To get into the Stonewall Bar you had to knock on the door, and a guy would look out through a porthole to make sure you weren't a cop. Back then, raids were common. You could get arrested for dancing. If you stood on the corner with another man for more than five minutes, you'd get hit in the legs with a nightstick by a cop saying, "Move on, girls," or you'd get arrested for congregating. We often spent nights in jail.

The night of June 27, 1969, I was working at Mama's Chicken Room, a little coffee shop around the corner from the Stonewall. That night police raided the bar. People came running over to Mama's, saying, "It's a madhouse over there. It's a riot." So we went over and joined the crowd.

The police were inside the bar, while everyone outside was rioting, throwing things, trying to break inside. They broke the painted-black windows. They broke through the plywood wall behind that. Two "queens" pulled a parking meter out of the ground, concrete and all, and used it as a battering ram to knock down the front door. The cops tried to arrest me and a few other people, but the lock on the paddy wagon wasn't quite locked and we were able to get it open and everyone inside got out and ran.

The riot got bigger. The gays started lighting fires in garbage cans and throwing them in the bar while the police were still inside. …

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