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?