Pride, Protesting and Progress: Equality For All

Pride, Protesting and Progress: Equality For All

Adorned with rainbow flags and weekend parades: the month of June is globally recognized as Pride Month. 


But, this year, another fight for equality has seen thousands of marchers lining the streets on a global level. While seemingly unrelated, these two movements for equality have coexisted since the inception of what has since come to be known as “Pride Month.” 


And it all began at Stonewall Inn, New York City.


Stonewall Riots


In the early hours of the morning on June 28th, 1969, nine policemen raided a bar and arrested multiple patrons. This bar was one of a few establishments in New York City known to be a relatively safe haven for members of the LGBTQI+ community - a refuge where individuals who were considered “sexually suspect” could socialize in relative safety from public harassment. This, in a world that criminalized their existence and forced them into the shadows. 


The policemen raided Stonewall Inn* under the pretense of the ‘unlicensed sale of alcohol,’ but instead arrested multiple patrons for dressing inappropriately for their gender - which was against the New York City laws at the time. This action from the police was by no means a rare occurrence during this time, and would otherwise have continued as a regular event. The police actions were under the guise of being in accordance with a New York criminal statute that authorized the arrest of anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing, and it was the third such raid on Greenwich Village gay bars in a short period.

Stonewall Riots


In the early hours of the morning on June 28th, 1969, nine policemen raided a bar and arrested multiple patrons. This bar was one of a few establishments in New York City known to be a relatively safe haven for members of the LGBTQI+ community - a refuge where individuals who were considered “sexually suspect” could socialize in relative safety from public harassment. This, in a world that criminalized their existence and forced them into the shadows. 


The policemen raided Stonewall Inn* under the pretense of the ‘unlicensed sale of alcohol,’ but instead arrested multiple patrons for dressing inappropriately for their gender - which was against the New York City laws at the time. This action from the police was by no means a rare occurrence during this time, and would otherwise have continued as a regular event. The police actions were under the guise of being in accordance with a New York criminal statute that authorized the arrest of anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing, and it was the third such raid on Greenwich Village gay bars in a short period.

HOWEVER, JUNE 28TH, 1969 WAS DIFFERENT.

However, June 28th, 1969 was different.

According to various  accounts, one woman - having tried in vain to fight off the police - turned to the growing crowd of onlookers and cried out “Why don’t you guys do something?!” before being forced into a police wagon. The crowd - having grown during the process of the arrests of the patrons - was now filled with rippling tensions. 

Sara Rampazzo from Unsplash

Sara Rampazzo

According to various accounts, one woman - having tried in vain to fight off the police - turned to the growing crowd of onlookers and cried out “Why don’t you guys do something?!” before being forced into a police wagon. The crowd - having grown during the process of the arrests of the patrons - was now filled with rippling tensions. 


It is said that this woman set off what became the Stonewall Uprising.

It is said that this woman set off what became the Stonewall Uprising.

ONLOOKERS SWIFTLY TURNED 

TO RIOTERS

Onlookers swiftly turned into rioters, who were met with aggression from the police. 


What was supposed to have been a routine raid became a pivotal moment in history, as the Stonewall Uprising continued over five days. The united front of the LGBTQI+ community protested against the police and the legislature controlling them. A community, previously forced into shrouded life of secrecy and hiding, had become a movement. Many recollections acknowledge that the people who once hid who they truly were or walked the streets with shame, now marched - protesting with pride and determination - unashamed of who they were, and who they loved.

Margaux Bellott from Unsplash

MARSHA P JOHNSON

While both LGBTQI+ and black communities have faced, and unfortunately continue to face, suffering and discrimination at the hands of both legislature and brutality - there is one particular individual that unites the two, becoming an icon for the protests of 2020. The image of Marsha P. Johnson (they/them) has filled various social media platforms - serving as a reminder of how the current #BlackLivesMatter movement does not distract from Pride Month, but rather has always been linked in some way. Marsha P Johnson was a known gay liberation rights activist, drag queen, and African-American citizen. Johnson was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and was known as “the Mayor of Christopher Street” (the street that Stonewall Inn is found).

Clay Banks from Unsplash

While Johnson recalls having arrived after the riots had already started, with the Inn already engulfed in flames, their role in the protests was solidified. Some accounts note Johnson throwing a shot glass into the burning bar, exclaiming “I got my Civil Rights!” (referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965). 


This act has become renowned as “the shot glass that was heard around the world”. 

Clay Banks from Unsplash

While Johnson recalls having arrived after the riots had already started, with the Inn already engulfed in flames, their role in the protests was solidified. 


Some accounts note Johnson throwing a shot glass into the burning bar, exclaiming “I got my Civil Rights!” (referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965). 


This act has become renowned as “the shot glass that was heard around the world”. 

Johnson fast became a symbol for the LGBTQI+ community, particularly as a representative for those of color. 

Johnson fast became a symbol for the LGBTQI+ community, particularly as a representative for those of color. Having started the Street  Transvestite Revolutionaries(STAR) organisation with close friend Sylvia Rivera, and later creating STAR House for young gay and trans homeless people, Johnson was an icon - standing for the protection of the community.

Johnson fast became a symbol for the LGBTQI+ community, particularly as a representative for those of color. Having started the Street Transvestite ActionRevolutionaries (STAR) organisation with close friend Sylvia Rivera, and later creating STAR House for young gay and trans homeless people, Johnson was an icon - standing for the protection of the community.

Marsha P. Johnson was not the only representative for both disenfranchised communities. Multiple historical figures have played a role in the overlapping movements - representing the intersectional nature that relates to both basic human rights and fair treatment for every human being.

Johnson fast became a symbol for the LGBTQI+ community, particularly as a representative for those of color. Having started the Street  Transvestite Revolutionaries (STAR) organisation with close friend Sylvia Rivera, and later creating STAR House for young gay and trans homeless people, Johnson was an icon - standing for the protection of the community.


Marsha P. Johnson was not the only representative for both disenfranchised communities. Multiple historical figures have played a role in the overlapping movements - representing the intersectional nature that relates to both basic human rights and fair treatment for every human being.

ACTIVISM, PRIDE & RACE

Bayard Rustin, for one, was an active role player in the Civil Rights Movement. He has become a figurehead for the combined fight for civil and gay rights. The Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition was formed in San Francisco to promote involvement in the electoral process, as well as the constant pursuit of greater human and civil rights for those without. Rustin was honored in the Legacy Walk - a memorial to people in history who have contributed to the progress of the LGBTQI+ community. In 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. The then acting president described Rustin as “[standing] at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights”. Earlier this year, his previous arrest related to the illegality of same sex relationships was pardoned, and resulted in the fast-tracking of the pardon of other persons convicted under historically homophobic laws.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Audre Lorde was another notable historical icon, crossing the intersections of black civil rights, LGBTQI+ rights, and feminist activism. She is described as having dedicated her life and works towards addressing the marginalization of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQI+ community. Identifying as a lesbian herself, she often wrote about the struggles she faced while existing in multiple marginalized spaces, with poems. Among her titles were: “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle The Masters House” and “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”. The Audre Lorde Project was founded in 1994, in Brooklyn, as an organization for LGBTQI+ people of color to participate in nonviolent activism surrounding their own rights, as well as related causes. Lorde was also inducted into the Legacy Walk and the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Amidst the present-day movements, protests and demonstrations, it is obvious that there is still much that needs to be done towards the elimination of discrimination. The current #BlackLivesMatter marches have melted together with Pride Month, to once again show the need for basic human rights, equality and respect for all human beings, regardless of their roles within marginalized groups. On the 1st of June, protestors filled the streets in major cities across the world to stand against the abhorrent police brutality faced by people of color in the United States. These demonstrations were set in motion after footage of the death of George Floyd was released. 


*Editor’s note: in light of the recent occurrence on the 18th of June 2020, this article has been updated to include the following sentence:


In a full-circle moment, a crowd gathered on the 18th of June 2020 outside the Stonewall Inn to march against the deaths of two black trans women, and violence against people of color within the LGBTQI+ community. 

These two movements have always existed, and will always exist, together - as long as the fight for equal rights is needed. A fight for the rights of one demands the rights of the other, and acknowledges the intersectional nature of the universality of basic human rights.  


Without protesting, there would not have been progress, nor the pride we celebrate today. But without protesting, the progress and the pride will come to an end. It is our duty as a society to ensure that it does not.


Mike Von from Unsplash

These two movements have always existed, and will always exist, together - as long as the fight for equal rights is needed. A fight for the rights of one demands the rights of the other, and acknowledges the intersectional nature of the universality of basic human rights.  


Without protesting, there would not have been progress, nor the pride we celebrate today. But without protesting, the progress and the pride will come to an end. It is our duty as a society to ensure that it does not.


Mike Von from Unsplash



Please note, comments must be approved before they are published