June is Pride Month. Every year, cities around the world mark the occasion with festivals and parades, celebrating the tremendous strides that the LGBTQ community has made. But Pride wasn’t always a joyful occasion. In fact, Pride as we know it started with violent protests.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village. This raid was nothing new. For decades, the LGBTQ community had been targeted and chastised. Authorities routinely penalized and shut down suspected gay bars, and same-sex relations were illegal all over the country.
Still, the Stonewall Inn had become a place of refuge. It welcomed drag queens, who were excluded from many other gay bars in town. Stonewall could not get a liquor license as a known gay bar, but it was one of the only gay bars left that actually allowed dancing. LGBTQ youth, often disowned by their own families, felt at home. It was an institution in the LGBTQ community, and particularly in the black LGBTQ community.
By the mid-1960s, the Genovese crime family controlled most of the gay bars in the Greenwich Village area. They bribed police to ignore what was happening in the Stonewall Inn, and police tipped them off before conducting any raids. This allowed the Mafia to hide any bootlegged alcohol, and other illegal activities, before police showed up.