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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Stonewall Uprising

Lesbian protester and cops, June 28, 1969. When police raided Stonewall Inn, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.
Courtesy of Bettye Lane
Lesbian protester and cops, June 28, 1969. When police raided Stonewall Inn, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand with PBS Video App

—Explore why a 1969 police raid on a New York City bar was a turning point in the gay rights movement—

When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world. Based on David Carter’s “Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution,” and told through interviews with Stonewall patrons, reporters and the policeman who led the raid, “Stonewall Uprising” recalls the fervently hostile climate in which the gay community was forced to live.

Stonewall: An Uprising, Not a Riot

The vast majority of medical authorities decreed homosexuality a mental disorder and often prescribed brutal treatment, including lobotomy.

"Curing" Homosexuality

Homosexual acts were illegal in every state except Illinois and gays frequently found themselves being hauled off to jail, their names splashed in the next day’s newspaper.

Violence Against Gays and Lesbians

Police entrapment was rampant, and being arrested meant that licenses to teach, practice law, medicine, or cosmetology might be denied or revoked.

The Dangers of Drag

Even in Greenwich Village, where thousands of people moved to escape the constant oppression of their hometowns, patrons of gay bars were accustomed to frequent police harassment. But on June 28, 1969, when the N.Y.P.D. raided the Stonewall, the gay community experienced what one Village Voice reporter who was on the scene called it a "Rosa Parks moment.”

The Legacy of the Stonewall Riots

For the first time, patrons refused to be led into paddy wagons, setting off a violent uprising that launched the gay rights movement. Exactly one year later, America saw its first Gay Pride Parade as thousands marched up Sixth Avenue.

The First Gay Pride March

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CREDITS:

Written by: David Heilbroner. Directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. In memory of Raymond Castro and Seymour Pine. Edited by Kate Davis. Produced by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. Filmed by Buddy Squires. Music composed by Gary Lionelli. Associate Producer and Advisor: Eric Marcus. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is a production of WGBH Boston. Senior Producer: Susan Bellows. Executive Producer: Mark Samels.

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