I thought it might be worthwhile to point people at the Village Voice from those days.
I lived in New York City in 1969.
I remember Stonewall.
I remember especially how powerfully I was struck by reading two pieces in the Village Voice that hit the street a few days after the riots had started, and in a sense reenergized the protests, leading to a final night of rioting
On June 24, 2009, the Voice published Stonewall at 40: The Voice Articles That Sparked a Final Night of Rioting
One was by Howard Smith, who wound up inside the Stonewall with the police when the raid on an unlicensed bar led to a riot where the police were ready to open fire to defend themselves. the other was by Lucian Truscott IV, a scion of a distinguished military family and himself a West Point graduate. Both are very worth reading.
One person was dragged into Stonewall by the police, and beaten when he admitted havinmg thrown coins at the cops. He was the singer Dave van Ronk, who when the disturbance had started had come out of the nearby Lion's Head, a well-known pub on Christopher Street often frequented by literary types such as Pete Hamill and Joel Oppenheimer, both of whom I got to know in my own visits to that establishment.
Please keep reading.
There are many myths about various efforts to claim rights on behalf of persecuted groups. They are not always completely true, even if they serve a purpose in building a sense of solidarity.
Stonewall could have been a tragedy, a real tragedy. Allow me to quote from Smith's article, which I clearly remembered reading in real time:
A door over to the side almost gives. One cop shouts, "Get away from there or I'll shoot!" It stops shaking. The front door is completely open. One of the big plywood windows gives, and it seems inevitable that the mob will pour in. A kind of tribal adrenaline rush bolsters all of us; they all take out and check pistols. I see both policewomen busy doing the same, and the danger becomes even more real. I find a big wrench behind the bar, jam it into my belt like a scimitar. Hindsight: my fear on the verge of being trampled by a mob fills the same dimension as my fear on the verge of being clubbed by the TPF.The anniversary of Stonewall falls in the summer. Still, given the President's recognition of its importance, it seemed appropriate to point people at this material.
Pine places a few men on each side of the corridor leading away from the entrance. They aim unwavering at the door. One detective arms himself in addition with a sawed-off baseball bat he has found. I hear, "We'll shoot the first motherfucker that comes through the door."
Pine glances over toward me. "Are you all right, Howard?" I can't believe what I'm saying: "I'd feel a lot better with a gun."
I can only see the arm at the window. It squirts a liquid into the room, and a flaring match follows. Pine is not more than 10 feet away. He aims his gun at the figures.
He doesn't fire. The sound of sirens coincides with the whoosh of flames where the lighter fluid was thrown. Later, Pine tells me he didn't shoot because he had heard the sirens in time and felt no need to kill someone if help was arriving. That was close.
Consider for example the beginning of Truscott's piece. Here is the title and the intro:
Gay Power Comes to Sheridan SquareHe toured the aftermath, when protests were going on, with Allen Ginsberg, the great poet. That part of the piece is worthy of careful reading.
By Lucian Truscott IV
Sheridan Square this weekend looked like something from a William Burroughs novel as the sudden specter of "gay power" erected its brazen head and spat out a fairy tale the likes of which the area has never seen.
The forces of faggotry, spurred by a Friday night raid on one of the city's largest, most popular, and longest lived gay bars, the Stonewall Inn, rallied Saturday night in an unprecedented protest against the raid and continued Sunday night to assert presence, possibility, and pride until the early hours of Monday morning. "I'm a faggot, and I'm proud of it!" "Gay Power!" "I like boys!" -- these and many other slogans were heard all three nights as the show of force by the city's finery met the force of the city's finest. The result was a kind of liberation, as the gay brigade emerged from the bars, back rooms, and bedrooms of the Village and became street people.
Here are the final three paragraphs, with a focus on Ginsberg.:
Ginsberg expressed a desire to visit the Stonewall -- "You know, I've never been in there" -- and ambled on down the street, flashing peace signs and helloing the TPF. It was a relief and a kind of joy to see him on the street. He lent an extra umbrella of serenity of the scene with his laughter and quiet commentary on consciousness, "gay power" as a new movement, and the various implications of what had happened. I followed him into the Stonewall, where rock music blared from speakers all around a room that might have come right from a Hollywood set of a gay bar. He was immediately bouncing and dancing wherever he moved.the guys there were so beautiful -- they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.
He left, and I walked east with him. Along the way, he described how things used to be. "You know, the guys there were so beautiful -- they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago." It was the first time I had heard that crowd described as beautiful.
We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, "Defend the fairies!" and bounced on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of "gay power" and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way.
Ginsberg offered those words more than four decades ago. It was true. That was part of the beauty.
We now have a President who acknowledges the full humanity of those who were scorned, ridiculed, and worse four or more decades ago, those who some would prefer if not to push back into the closet then to demonize and punish any way they can, even killing them judicially when they or their allies in other nations have the power to do so.
It is well worth going back and seeing what Stonewall was, how courageous it was, in the summer of 1969.