Fighting Back–The Stonewall Riots

This post is dedicated to, and about, the brave women and men who, 43 years ago today, said Enough is enough.  Who persevered through what must’ve been terrible fear, who stood up to their oppressors and FOUGHT BACK.  They are the reason that Gay Pride Parades are held throughout the country around this time; they helped spawn the modern gay rights’ movement.  And they are a shining example of how pacifism is not always enough–it’s just a tool, like any other in the toolbox.  Sometimes we have to fight back, turn the aggressors’ violence back on them and see how they like it, with all the fierce burning rage of the abused, the oppressed and repressed.  And sometimes we have to fight in the place of those who can’t fight for themselves.

In the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, New York Police Officers were yet again harassing the patrons of a popular Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.  Raids and harassment of gay bars were a common occurrence; after all, New York actually had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public (whatever that means!)  But that gives you an idea of the repressive, “closeted” atmosphere of the times.  But this one night was different.  People were fed up.  Patrons began throwing pennies at the six officers assigned to raid the Stonewall Inn.  Someone started a fire outside, and a parking meter was dismantled to use as a battering ram against the police.  Tensions grew.  Reinforcements were called in–police, of course, but also fellow gay men and women who were sick of the atmosphere of hatred and violence against their brothers and sisters of oppression.  Chants of “GAY POWER!” erupted.

Eventually police riot squads broke up the protesters, but the next night the crowd returned, with numbers swelling to upward of 1,000.  “Very soon it was obvious to everyone that the weak, limp-wristed, helpless, pathetic, sissy boys–and NOT the police–were in control.”  (http://www.stageandcinema.com/2011/04/23/stonewall-uprising/)  They rioted and protested outside the Stonewall Inn for hours, until they were again dispersed by battalions of anti-riot goons.  In the days following, demonstrations took place all over the city.

“In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York’s LGBT[Q] people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups…”  (http://www.civilrights.org/archives/2009/06/449-stonewall.html )  These events inspired LGBTQ activists around the country to organize and agitate for gay rights.

The Stonewall Riots were a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ movement.  On the one-year anniversary of those nights of rage, the first Gay Pride march was held.

Those of us in the environmental community could learn a lot from these brave warriors.  What will it take for us to have a watershed moment like this?  I still don’t think we’ve broken through that kind of barrier.  Of course the situations are different, but I’m talking commonalities here.  Most people still don’t know (or refuse to believe, or willfully forget) that civilization is causing a mass extinction of plants and animals, on the order of 10,000 species a year.  It is the first mass extinction not caused by a calamitous natural event (e.g. volcano eruption(s), asteroid impact, etc.).  Dead zones are spreading in the ocean.  Billions of animals are being tortured and maimed and massacred in industrial slaughterhouses and vivisection laboratories.  90 percent of the large fish in the ocean are gone.  Coral reefs, the biodiversity-rainforests of the ocean, are dying.  Rainforests are being razed.  How much more will it take before we begin to create our own watershed moments?  It doesn’t have to be a riot.  It just has to BE.  Has to happen.  And we can have a thousand watershed moments in a thousand different places.

It’s time to begin preparing for a Deep Green Resistance, for Decisive Ecological Warfare.  Time is running out.  Will you join me in calling for, and helping to create and enact, what must be done in order for life on Earth to continue and thrive?  Everyone can play a role.  What is yours?

Thanks to Stage and Cinema and CivilRights.org for their great information.

10 thoughts on “Fighting Back–The Stonewall Riots

  1. twinks

    You actually make it seem really easy together with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually something
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    Reply
  2. TheRewildWest Post author

    Reblogged this on THE REWILD WEST and commented:

    In honor of the DOMA and all the Pride awareness and celebration going on, I’m reposting this very important blog piece I wrote last year; it also happens to be my most-viewed post ever.

    Reply
  3. wewerenothing

    Oh wow! Another insightful post. Thank you for sharing the NY history of gay pride/rights. And your question at the end of the post, “Everyone can play a role. What is yours?” My answer is I volunteer. I volunteer a lot! I do it the MROSD because I so appreciate the green hills/mountains in the Bay Area and want them to stay that way! So I volunteer — not wanting to see those hills looking like LA’s! And I volunteer at Ano Nuevo too, because the seals need protection. I have time to give and use my muscles to help with all manner of work in these places, all for free.

    Reply
    1. TheRewildWest Post author

      That’s wonderful, thank you for all you do for the Earth and her creatures =) I hope I can play some small part in helping you also see that the dominant culture (i.e. industrial civilization) CANNOT be reformed to sustainability, and that we need to be thinking about and talking about what we can do to begin dismantling the industrial megamachine.

      Reply
  4. vegwriter

    I love the idea of a watershed moment, which happens when change reaches the tipping point. Yes many such moments are undoubtedly coming.

    Reply
    1. TheRewildWest Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t heard about them either until a gay friend from high school recently called me out of the blue–I hadn’t talked to him in literally 3+ years–and we got on the subject of Pride, and he told me about them =)

      Reply

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