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The Stonewall Uprising

The Stonewall Uprising

Bars and clubs that catered to gay crowds were subject to periodic police raids up through the end of the 1960s. This harassment intensified in the lead‑up to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, when city officials cleaned up the streets to make it seem more family friendly. “You’d have the police clear the sidewalks and the streets,” Agosto Machado said, “so where could you go? Into mafia bars, or after-hour clubs. Conveniently, Stonewall was just down the street from where a lot of people hung out on Christopher Street.” In the years before the 1969 uprising at the famed gay bar, one part of Jim Fouratt’s experiences of being gay was going to those establishments. He was one of the handful of people who witnessed the start of the Stonewall rebellion in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 (many more would join over the next few evenings, and even more would claim to be there after the fact). As he was walking down Christopher Street on his way back from a nightcap at Max’s Kansas City, Fouratt saw a police car parked in front of Stonewall, after which the doors flew open. “Out comes what you would call a bull dyke,” he said. “The nice term of that period was called a ‘passing woman.’ She passed as a man. She was like, Rr-rr-rr, like being as butch as she could be, and the police officer puts her in the car.” (She was arrested for not wearing three pieces of clothing “appropriate to one’s gender,” as was mandated by a New York statute.) About fifty people watched outside the bar as the woman began rocking side to side until the car door popped open. She got out and began throwing her weight against the police cruiser, which nearly tipped over. “There’s a moment—which is, to me, the critical moment—where the crowd screams,” Fouratt recalled. “It’s the moment of, to me, liberation. It is the moment when all of that stuffed-down feeling, all of that oppression that every gay person had ever had, gets released, in that crowd.” The growing crowd began fighting back, with Christopher Street regular Marsha P. Johnson flinging debris at the cops. “It was fun, almost,” Fouratt added, “and the police had no clue what to do because gay people never acted like this before.”

From Chapter 30 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore

Location

Stonewall Inn
53 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014

People