The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was the site of the first Gay riots leading to Gay Civil Rights in the United States. A Mafia operated bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn attracted a variety of Gay and lesbian patrons in the 1960s. Tensions between the police and the community led to riots starting on June 28, 1969.
Listen to Tour Guide Renee talk about the Stonewall Inn on tour.
Where is the Stonewall Inn
The Stonewall Inn is located in Greenwich Village at 53 Christopher St. near the intersection with 7th Ave. It’s best to click this link for directions to the Stonewall Inn from anywhere in New York City. Due to its proximity to the West 4th Street Station, you can easily access this historic bar via the A,B,C,D,E,F,M trains. You could also access the bar with the 1 train from the Christopher St./Sheridan Square stop as well as the PATH Train’s Christopher St. and 9th St. stations. Nearby sights include Magnolia Bakery, Washington Square Park and the Friends Apartment.
Called the Gay Rebellion, the Stonewall Riots lasted several nights on Christopher Street in June 1969. The fuse that incited the events was a raid by federal and New York City agents looking to close down the bar. Serving alcohol to gay men and women was illegal in 49 of the 50 states — Illinois was the only state with no such laws in Spring 1969.
The Mafia-run bar had a colorful reputation and drew patrons across the Gay community, including Drag Queens, effeminate young men, and homeless youths. Members of the Gay and lesbian community had made several attempts at achieving civil rights after the Black Community had done so in 1965. But, when they organized and demonstrated, leaders of the community whose names got into the newspapers were often fired from their jobs, even kicked out of their apartments. Homosexuals had no Civil Rights under the law. The Stonewall Inn was a place in which they could socialize and dance as themselves.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, patrons of the bar decided they were not going to be kicked out of one place in which they were accepted. Events of the raid precipitated riots as patrons went outside, and patrons from other bars and residents from the neighborhood gathered outside the Stonewall Inn to see what was happening. Straights and gays demonstrated their anger throwing pennies at the police. Our pennies were made out of copper, which was a derogatory term used against the police back then. The police ended up barricading themselves inside the Stonewall Inn until the Riot Police arrived at 4:30 in the morning, chasing the protestors and arresting members of the community.
The next night, people showed up to see what was going to happen, and emotions flared again into another night of rioting, as well as the next night. With all the attention to their plight, the Gay and lesbian community found backing for organizing to achieve civil rights.
On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Civil Rights parades were held in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, called the Christopher Street Parades. Today they are called the Gay Pride Parades in the United States, but the Christopher Street Parades in Germany, Sweden, and Austria. In London, the lesbian and Gay lobbying group is called Stonewall.