The Stonewall Inn

Drew Angerer / Staff

50th Anniversary Of Stonewall Riots Marks Milestone In LGBT History

June 26, 2019 - 7:59 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It’s been 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising erupted in Greenwich Village, giving birth to the modern day gay rights movement.

There were police raids before and police raids after, but the night of June 28, 1969 was different.

"See I made a list in the back of my book of pretty much every factor I could think of that make Stonewall happen. And that's a very long list. Maybe like maybe 25, 30, 35 factors. So you can't say one thing made it happen,” said David Carter, who spent 11 years working on a book on the subject, “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution.”

He thinks the tipping point came when cops manhandled and bloodied a lesbian.

Carter said, “This is when they just totally throw her bodily inside the car and at some point she or another lesbian said to the crowd -- why don't you guys do something."

It was clear almost immediately the tide was turning.

“You know it's a little bit like after 9/11, right? For example, you know things are going to change. But how? You can't really say then,” Carter said.

Carter thinks it’s no coincidence that the civil rights movement was gaining steam at the same time, "I think that opens up everything. In other words if you can't discriminate on the basis of race why should you be able to discriminate on the basis of sex, age, disability. Anything."

The riots gave many gays the courage to fight for their rights and as more people came out, the movement was strengthened.

“Gay people began to see themselves differently. Began to feel there was hope. They could be treated equally like other citizens,” Carter said.

The first gay pride march came one year after the Stonewall Riots. A relatively small group started in the Village and headed to Central Park.

"They're walking up Sixth Avenue in New York City in the daylight so to see thousands of homosexuals doing that I think again that was something that changed people's consciousness," Carter said.

The numbers grew as the emboldened marchers headed to the park.

"There was a rock formation and people could climb up on that then they could see the full extent of the march. When they saw so many thousands behind them, so many people on that rock report almost a transcendent feeling and they started crying," Carter said.

The events at Stonewall gave them strength and courage.

"I think that when they saw this beloved bar being raided they felt they could push back, they felt they had enough moral strength, they had enough self esteem to push back," Carter said.