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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 14°C
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# legacy
Why is Pride in June? The Stonewall riot started the whole tradition... here's how
The impromptu uprising outside the Stonewall Inn paved the way for the gay rights movement across the world.

IN THE EARLY hours of 28 June 1969, a small gay bar in the West Village of New York became the focal point of an uprising that changed the course of LGBT history across the world forever.

The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was a place of refuge for everyone and anyone from the LGBT community at the time.

It welcomed drag queens who weren’t warmly welcomed into other gay clubs and it was a pit stop for many homeless youths.

The mafia ran the bar and registered it as a “bottle bar”, which didn’t need a liquor license because attendees were supposed to bring their own alcohol. However, they sold alcohol on the premises anyway.

The club was victim to a number of raids in the lead up the riot, but whistleblower police always tipped off the management before they happened, leaving them with a chance to hide their “for sale” alcohol.

The riot

No tip off was made on the morning of the riot. Police entered unannounced.

Nine NYPD policemen stormed into the premises and arrested the employees for illegally selling alcohol.

Under New York law at the time, the police had permission to arrest anyone not wearing at least three items of “gender appropriate” attire. They took a number of people into custody.

They beat up many of the bar’s patrons and at one point an officer hit a gay woman across the head and forced her into a police van.

This raid was different than those that led up to it. The patrons were fueled with anger from the constant police harassment and social discrimination.

Within minutes, a full-blown riot involving more than 400 people began.

The police weren’t used to the hostile behaviour and violence from the patrons and barricaded themselves within the bar.

They watched on as over 400 LGBT people rioted outside.

Two of the loudest voices that led the riot were Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a transgender Latina woman.

Reports state that Rivera threw a glass bottle at police in the midst of the raid and yelled:

I’m not missing a minute of this. It’s the revolution.

Over the course of the next five days, rioters attempted to repeatedly breach the barricade and tried to set the bar alight. The New York Fire Department calmed the flames and the crowds eventually dispersed.

CBS Evening News / YouTube


Although the Stonewall riots didn’t start the gay rights movement, it became a symbol of resistance to social and political discrimination across the world.

The event led to the founding of a number of LGBT rights organisations including GLAAD, Queer Nation, PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Human Rights Campaign.

Today, dozens of countries around the world host their Pride parades during the month of June, in memory of the riots.

Some of these include the UK, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, Israel and Norway.

Dublin’s first Pride parade

The first Pride parade in Ireland’s capital wasn’t sparked by the Stonewall riots but it did have its origins in violent discrimination. It was held in response to a horrific attack in Fairview Park in 1982 in which a young gay man died.

Declan Flynn was 31 years old when he was killed by a gang of four in the park.

In March 1983, the four attackers were given suspended sentences of between one and five years, kicking off what is considered by some as the first large-scale demonstration in Dublin for gay rights.

SCENES FROM DUBLIN GAY PRIDE MARCH. 1993 PIC: LEON FARRELL/PHOTOCALL IRELAND! Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland Dublin Pride parade march 1993 Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

In outrage at the sentencing and in protest against violence toward gay men and women in Ireland, the gay community, unions and supporters marched from Dublin city centre to Dublin’s Fairview Park.

While there had been small scale marches, this was the first time a group of people, not just from the gay community, gathered to demand equal rights for all.

The first pride parade was organised by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation for June 1983.

25/6/2016. Gay Pride Parade Dublin. The Gay Pride Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland Dublin pride parade 2016 Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

With reporting from Christina Finn. 

Read: Beaten, robbed and left to die: One march that paved the way for the Dublin Pride parade

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