Day 3 - Why Pride Marches?
I’m on tour with the London Gay Men’s Chorus in New York, getting ready for a joint concert with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus this Saturday.
We’ve been to the Stonewall National Monument, close to the Stonewall Inn. This was the site of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1969, a turning point in America’s fight for LGBT rights.
When I was growing up, the only significant event in the summer of 1969 was the first landing on the moon. I was eleven years old, and I remember watching the contrasty, black and white pictures on our ageing oak-cased television set.
I knew nothing about the police raid on a sanctuary for gay men in New York’s Greenwich Village. Police raids on gay bars were frequent in New York at the time, but the bar owners usually received a police tip-off before the raid.
On the night of 28 June at the Stonewall Inn, there was no police tip-off.
And the raid did not go as planned.
Instead of meekly lining up against a wall and handing over their IDs, patrons refused to cooperate. A crowd gathered outside.
It got angry.
The crowd swelled to five or six hundred, vastly outnumbering the police.
Ten police officers barricaded themselves inside the Stonewall Inn for safety.
The crowd chanted, “We shall overcome”. They attacked the police wagons, and it led to several days of riots in Greenwich Village.
It also triggered a change around the world in the approach to the campaign for gay rights.
One year later, the first gay Pride march in Greenwich Village, marked the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. There were also marches in Chicago and Los Angeles.
These days, people often ask, why bother with Pride marches any more?
Then you see pictures of gay men rounded up in Chechnya and forced into concentration camps. You see pictures of gay men thrown from the roofs of multi-storey car parks in Syria.
Or two gay men in West London earlier this year, savagely beaten as they slept on their train back home.
That’s why we still have Pride marches.